A New Jersey woman, Dr. Mary Beamer, is pursuing a lawsuit against her former employer, Herman Chiropractic Center. In her lawsuit, she claims Herman Chiropractic fired her because she was pregnant. According to a news report about the case, Dr. Beamer claims that she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum, which is a severe form of morning sickness that can cause dehydration, and she needed to take 11 days medical leave from work because of it. Dr. Beamer claims that when she was ready to return to work after her 11-day leave, the owner of the company told her not to bother because he didn’t want her to return.
In this case, Herman Chiropractic knew that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles eligible employees to medical leave for pregnancy related health issues, did not cover it. The FMLA didn’t cover Herman Chiropractic because it did not have 50 or more employees. Thus, that law did not require it to provide Dr. Beamer with leave for her pregnancy related condition. However, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also protects pregnant employees. Under the PDA, an employer cannot fire an employee because she is pregnant. Dr. Beamer claims in her lawsuit that Herman Chiropractic did exactly that.
If you are pregnant and your employer has refused to let you take leave from work due to pregnancy related health issues because it claims you aren’t covered by the FMLA, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer to learn more about your rights. It is not uncommon for an employer to mistakenly tell an employee she is ineligible for FMLA leave even when she is eligible. Additionally, Maine has its own version of the FMLA, which applies to employers with fewer than 50 employees, and some employers misapply that law as well. Even if the federal FMLA or Maine’s version of the FMLA don’t cover you, you might have a claim under the PDA like Dr. Beamer.