Manager's Loose Lips Sinks Employer's Chances of Dismissing FMLA Claim


When making difficult decisions about eliminating jobs, senior management surely may disagree as to "who" is cut and how it's done. However, after the decision is made, it is critical that management collectively support the decision and refrain from public dissension. When that dissension is shared publicly or with the affected employee, it can spell disaster.

Take a situation involving Laura Makowski. Makowski was employed as Marketing Director by SmithAmundsen LLC, a Chicago-based law firm. In December 2007, during the massive economic downturn, Makowski took maternity leave. One month later, during a firm retreat in January 2008, the firm's executive team decided to eliminate the positions held by Makowski as well as the firm's IT Director. The Executive Committee charged Molly O'Gara, Director of Human Resources, with the task of consulting outside counsel on the termination decision. O'Gara considered herself the "boss" with respect to HR policies and compliance and was regularly consulted on termination decisions.

According to Makowski, when she returned to pick up her belongings in early February after being terminated, O'Gara met her at the elevator. Shockingly, Makowski claims that O'Gara told her that she "was let go because of the fact that [Makowski] was pregnant and took medical leave" and that Makowski was one of several at the firm who were let go because they were pregnant or took medical leave. O'Gara allegedly didn't stop there, suggesting that Makowski should consult with an attorney, since there "might be the possibility of a class action."


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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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