Father says employer fired him for taking paternity leave

Last week we discussed the 20th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and discussed some of the shortfalls of the law. One issue with the FMLA is that in some workplaces, it is only acceptable for women to take job-protected leaves for the birth of a child and not for men to do so. The law makes no such distinction, however many employers here in Wisconsin may be intimidating new fathers and discouraging them from taking advantage of their federal family leave rights.

In a recent case, a man who worked for a Boston area law firm said he was fired for taking an FMLA leave after the birth of his second child, when he needed to take care of his children and his ill wife. He sued the law firm for the alleged retaliation, seeking both back pay and front pay, as well as lost benefits, punitive damages and damages for emotional distress.

The man’s lawsuit accused the law firm of fostering a macho culture in which men were encouraged to meet traditional gender stereotypes.

The law firm said that it fired him due to low production, or not filing enough billable hours for his work as an attorney with the firm.

Of course, when someone is fired in retaliation, the employer will typically mask the true reason for the job termination with a work-related excuse.

This case was recently settled outside of court and the details remain confidential. In many cases, it is wise to attempt to come to a settlement prior to litigation. This is generally less costly, less time-consuming and less stressful for both parties. It is important, however, to be ready to go to court to insist on your right to job-protected leave after the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for an ill family member.

Source: The American Lawyer, “Dechert and Former Associate Settle ‘Macho Culture’ Retaliation Case,” Sheri Qualters, Feb 11, 2013

  • More information about the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the Wisconsin Family and Medical Leave Act is available on our employment law firm’s website.

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