HR Management & Compliance

FMLA: Termination Due to Restrictions During High-Risk Pregnancy

By Stephen W. Jones, JD

The 8th Circuit—which covers Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota—recently held that presenting a doctor’s note to her employer entitled a pregnant employee to the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the employer’s decision to fire her on the last day of her first year of employment didn’t affect her entitlement to FMLA protection.

Moreover, the court held that firing a pregnant employee who requests a reduction in hours because of a high-risk pregnancy is retaliation under the FMLA.

Ena Wages began working for Stuart Management Corporation (StuartCo), a property management firm, as a full-time caretaker at Woodridge Apartment Homes on November 17, 2008. Generally, a caretaker is responsible for vacuuming, cleaning, mopping, washing windows, dusting, and removing snow. Wages worked 30 hours a week, and her employment record was unblemished.

In the summer of 2009, Wages learned that she was pregnant and that her pregnancy was high risk. She attempted to contact StuartCo’s HR department in June or July to inquire about maternity benefits and leave, but no one returned her call. She called again a week later, saying she wanted information about FMLA leave. The HR director, Deb Stachowski, didn’t recall receiving either call.

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