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Minneapolis employee terminated after taking maternity leave

An employee with performance issues was terminated as part of a reduction in force only 1 day after returning to her Minneapolis job after maternity leave. However, she didn't prevail in court on her wrongful termination claim.

The employee argued that her employer had violated state law by allegedly failing to reinstate her to a comparable position and also retaliating against her for taking maternity leave. She also argued that her termination was because of her sex.

In Minnesota, the Minnesota Parenting Leave Act offers protections similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Neither is preclusive in coverage, so an employee may seek protections under either or both laws, in order to receive the maximum benefits. Both the MPLA and FMLA require employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for reasons of childbirth, adoption or a serious health condition. Employees may qualify for the benefit if they have worked 12 months for the employer, among other qualifications.

In this case, the employer had also agreed to provide an additional 4 weeks of personal leave to the employee, on the condition that there was no guarantee of job reinstatement at the end of that period. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the protections of the FMLA and MPLA did not extend beyond the 12-week period, so the employee was not protected during the additional 4-week extension. The court also noted that the employer had engaged in a bona-fide reduction in force, and dismissed the woman's claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act for termination because of sex.

As this story illustrates, it can be easy to misunderstand an employer's policies regarding FMLA and MPLA. Although those policies are typically required to be in writing and must comply with applicable laws, there may be nuances -- like extensions of leave -- of which you are unaware. For that reason, it's important to contact an attorney if you fear your job security may be at risk because of an employer's illegal or discriminatory employment practices.

Source: HR.BLR.com, "Did Termination After Maternity Leave Violate Minnesota Law?" June 29, 2012

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