Consider the Big Picture Before Terminating Pregnant Employees

An employee takes pregnancy-related medical leave. While she’s out, you discover that she falsified certain time sheets and billing records. On the day she’s set to return from leave, you instead tell her that she’s being terminated.

The employee sues for pregnancy discrimination. Should you be worried?

You should think long and hard before terminating employees who are out on leave. Find out what the law requires, and the best ways to protect your business, by ordering a CD recording from our recent in-depth 90-minute audio conference specifically for California employers: Terminating Employees on Leave in California: How to Avoid the Legal Pitfalls.

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Maybe. A California appeals court recently concluded in Johnson v. United Cerebral Palsy that the employee’s case could go before a jury.

Even though the employer presented evidence that the employee had falsified her time records, the employee’s evidence—”taken all together—”was enough to allow the case to go to trial. The employee produced evidence that she accurately recorded her work hours, that the employer failed to interview her during its investigation into her time records, and that a manager had previously made statements that pregnant workers posed a safety hazard. In addition, evidence was presented that other pregnant employees had been terminated.

The case highlights the fact that the entire context of the employee’s history with the company—not just the employee’s alleged misconduct—must be taken into account before termination decisions are made. Moreover, if there appears to be a pattern of terminating employees under similar circumstances, the fact that you genuinely believe a particular employee did something wrong won’t necessarily save you from a long and costly legal battle.

We’ll have the full story on this case in an upcoming issue of the California Employer Advisor.

Are You Avoiding Letting Go of Employees Who Are on Leave?

A worker who’s out on family leave has failed to provide you with a medical certification, despite repeated requests. Grounds for termination?

A member of the Armed Forces returns from a tour of duty with a distracted attitude and serious performance problems. Can you fire him?

A new mom is ready to return to work when you inform her that her position was eliminated in her absence. Does she have legal grounds to sue?

Even garden-variety terminations are legally risky, but when you start to factor in leaves they can become downright explosive. Is your only option to avoid terminating employees who are on, or just returning from, leave—even if you have legitimate grounds?

Order the CD recording of our recent audio conference all about the right way to handle tricky situations like these. Our expert—an experienced California employment law attorney—will cover:

  • How to identify which state and federal laws may protect workers who are out due to an injury, a pregnancy, military service, or an illness
  • The potential—and critical—interplay among leave laws, and how a termination could open your organization up to liability under state and federal anti-bias laws
  • The legal timelines governing workers’ reinstatement rights
  • What to do when you want to terminate a worker on, or just returning from, leave—and how to determine whether the termination is legal
  • Whether you can terminate a worker on leave whose position has been eliminated as the result of an RIF or other organizational restructuring
  • Alternate options if termination isn’t a good idea in a given situation

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