Ask the Expert

Dr. Kathleen Wells is a professional career coach and Director of Coaches That Care. She has coached thousands of clients through the stages of successful career development.

Terminated while on maternity leave

Q: I am currently out on maternity leave with my first child. I have 8 weeks paid leave and am taking advantage of the Family Leave Act for additional unpaid time. My boss and I agreed that I would return to work mid-December. I work for a large CPG company (4 years) and have gotten numerous promotions and pay increases. On my fifth week of maternity leave, my boss called to tell me that due to company reorganizations there will not be a position for me to return to. Since we do not know what can happen by the time my leave is up, I feel that I am being treated unfairly. How do I handle this? Should I contact a lawyer to better understand my rights?
Betty D.

A: Dear Monica, This is a very tricky situation and one I definitely believe you should seek legal council on. I do not think the company can "let you go" while you are currently on family leave. It would appear they would leave themselves wide open for a discrimination allegation. What they do after you return to work might be a different case.

I would immediately contact a labor attorney or a family law attorney and gather as much information about these cases as possible. Get on the Internet and see if you can locate chat rooms of others on family leave or who have faced similar problems after taking an approved family leave. Find out what they did. Do you have your agreement in writing? If so, take it with you to the attorney.

Finally, if you feel this type of behavior is indicative of the new "regime," consider looking elsewhere. You might not enjoy being part of this company in the future, and it sounds like you are a talented and hard working woman. Good luck!