I am a physical therapist returning to full time work after maternity leave. I took a total of 16.5 weeks off (4.5 before birth, 8 after cesarean, and 4 additional for bonding). As agreed with my employer, I was to return working only part time for 3 months, which I did, and then become full time as before. My full time return date was supposed to be December 17th but since I have not had the patient load available my employer is forcing me to work only as needed. Since my original job contract is for 40 hours/week and we had agreed upon, in writing, the date I was to return to full time, am I correct that they are obligated honor my 40 hour a week contract regardless of patient availability? If it useful information, the company is small (5 full time employees) and I have seniority.
I think it would be a good idea to either call a lawyer (fee of charge) or meet with a lawyer (free of charge) because more information is needed as to whether you've been discriminated against as a result of pregnancy leave.
Best of luck.
Your written contract will need to be read and analyzed by an employment law attorney to answer your question. Some contracts state that the employee is at-will and that means the employer can change the terms of work hours, etc. as it sees fit. But, because your employer has 5 employees, they may not discriminate against you BECAUSE of your pregnancy or related leave. It gets a bit more complicated since you are not eligible for protected leave under FMLA/CFRA because your employer does not have 50 or more employees. You should be able to retain the services of an employment law attorney to review your contract and consult with you about whether your employer is bound to provide full time employment to you. Find employment law attorney phone numbers on Avvo.com. Kristine Karila, Employment Law Attorney
There are several protective statutes that speak to the issues you raise. None of them, however, insulate you from job losses that would have occurred had you been there. In other words, if you would have lost the hours had you not been pregnant, the protective statutes do not force your employer to keep you employed at the full time rate simply because you had the fortunate circumstance of being on protected leave.
The bottom line is that you cannot be retaliated against for getting pregnant and taking protected leave. If the employer's motive for reducing your hours can be proved to be such retaliation, it is unlawful.
Given your specific circumstances, it would be prudent for you to seek a private confidential consultation with an attorney to go over the facts and the express terms of your contract.
Good luck to you.
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