You know how America is the only industrialized nation not to have federally mandated paid maternity leave? Well, it turns out we're also a country where employers can use the flimsiest of excuses to fire you while you're on maternity leave. I would say it's almost like nobody wants American women to have kids, but since one of our major political parties seems intent on outlawing both abortion and birth control, I guess the real issue is that no one want American women to be able to support themselves or their children. Thanks guys.
In a bizarre case out of Eugene, Oregon, a woman who worked as an entertainment reporter for a local paper was fired while on maternity leave for deleting company emails. Apparently the paper considers those to be "company property," so by deleting them, she was destroying company property, which was grounds for termination.
The woman in question, Serena Markstrom Nugent, had worked at The Register-Guard since graduating college, and told the Eugene Weekly that the whole thing "felt like getting punched in the stomach." They even had another employee clean out her desk for her. Plus, she lost her health insurance, though she says she and the baby will still have access to medical care.
Obviously, this whole thing complete sucks. I could try pointing out that emails hardly count as company property, and that getting rid of something that has copies, has no physical form, and doesn't cost any money shouldn't be a problem, but we all know that the email thing was just an excuse.
According to Nugent, the company wanted her gone from the time she first filled out her Family and Medical Leave paperwork. She claims that though she'd never received any criticism of her performance previously, suddenly she was told that she needed coaching on her writing, and management became increasingly critical of her performance, all of which sounds like they were trying to create grounds for termination, if it's indeed true. Or, you know, being pregnant turned her brain to mush, because that totally happens.
Of course, it could be true that Nugent really was a substandard employee, but the fact that they couldn't find a more compelling reason to fire her than "she deleted some emails" strongly suggests that really they just wanted her gone, for whatever reason.
Obviously plenty of employees go on maternity leave every year without any hassle from their employers, but it seems that not everyone is so lucky. Which is dumb, because in world where having a family and having a career are not mutually exclusive, for men or for women, it might be nice if we could accept that women have every right to take time to have children without losing income or getting fired. Cause actually, guys, it isn't that much to ask.