California Labor Law Spells Pregnancy Termination a Wrongful Termination


Sacramento, CA When Rovanda was five months pregnant, she told her employer that she needed to take a week off work for an important surgical procedure. Rovanda never thought, after working as their janitorial manager for five years with a perfect work record, that she would be filing a claim for wrongful termination. Her employer called it “laid off,” but in California, being fired because you’re pregnant spells discrimination, and she is likely entitled to California wrongful termination damages.

When she was five months pregnant, Rovanda’s doctor ordered an ultrasound and found out she had dilated: she required stitches in her cervix to hold the baby and carry it to term. It was imperative that she have this surgical procedure and four or five days off work. But even before this, HR tried to let her go.

“When I first told my supervisor that I was pregnant, the lady at HR told me that she was going to have to lay me off,” says Rovanda, who knew she wasn’t allowed to do that; she knows that is discrimination and a violation of California labor law. And HR must have known it too. Incredibly, Rovanda says she is not the only one. “Anybody who works here and gets pregnant is laid off but in reality they are getting terminated,” she says.

“When I was able to go back to work, the lady at HR said, ‘Don’t work tomorrow, we will call you back.’ No call back. I phoned a few days later and they told me to apply for unemployment, they had already sent my last check electronically. A guy came to my house who said he was just taking my place until I returned to work. He took the company vehicle and petty cash, about a week after I had the surgery.

“I was ‘laid off’ last October 2012. HR said I could only return to work part-time after the baby was born but I never came back to work. I was a hard worker with only one write-up and right after that got a promotion, so the only reason I can think of for terminating me was because my position meant I had to be on call for emergencies first and second shifts - when you clean in the evening. They figured I couldn’t do it with a baby.

“I kept in touch with them while I was pregnant and I planned to go back to work six weeks after my daughter was born. I had family and a babysitter all set up to look after her.

“The GM said they weren’t going to hire me back at all because my job was made redundant but they had a position advertised in the local newspaper for a supervisor - my job. I never pushed the issue until I saw that ad.

“When I told my manager that I was going to call a labor lawyer to determine whether this is right or wrong, he just said, ‘Do what you’ve got to do.’ I know they are in the wrong; I put my trust in them, I thought they would secure my job.”

Rovanda is a single mom - her daughter is now six months old. She is still collecting unemployment insurance and looking for work, but her unemployment runs out this October, which is cause for concern. She has also filed a wrongful termination claim, alleging discrimination.

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