FILED IN: Social Issues

Connecticut mom told maternity leave viewed as resignation

Company denied FMLA leave because employee had not been with company for full year.

Amy Zvovushe, who won a battle with her company over maternity leave, holds her unborn child. Photo courtesy Good Morning America.

When Amy Zvovushe took a new job with Ryan Partnership, she never imagined that when she became pregnant and informed her Human Resources department of her condition she’d be told she wouldn’t have a job waiting for her when she came back to work after having her child.

That’s just what happened, alleges Zvovushe, who secretly recorded meetings with her HR department when she became frustrated with them after they told her that the Family Medical Leave Act, a Federal law, only protected employees after they’d been at their jobs for a year, and Zvovushe had only been at hers for three months.

Zvovushe, in her recordings, said one human resources executive said on Oct. 31, “The issue is in terms of what the legal employment action is, we have a job for you, you don’t receive protection under FMLA, so technically if you don’t come to work doesn’t matter whether you’re having you’re (sic) appendix out or you’re having a baby or you’re dealing with a sick person you didn’t show up for work on Monday. So in effect you haven’t come back to the office, so that’s why we view it as a voluntary resignation. Because you are voluntarily not coming here because you are taking the tie to have a baby, it’s not protected time within the law so that’s how we treat it.”

FMLA provides family members who need to care for others or themselves up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year, ensuring their employers have a job for them when they’re ready to return. It doesn’t have to be the same job, but it does have to be a job at the same level as when they left.

Several states are working on laws to protect pregnant women specifically. Minnesota, Connecticut, Illinois, California, Louisiana, Michigan and New Hampshire. These seven states have passed laws requiring employers to provide some physical accommodations for pregnant workers. Alaska and Texas are working toward the same thing, requiring specific public employers to provide similar accommodations. New York State just this week introduced a similar bill, so accommodations could be coming their way soon for pregnant working mothers.

When Zvovushe recorded the executives’ conversations, retained a lawyer and then took her evidence and representation to her company, she said they backed off and granted her leave to have her baby, who was born in January.

Jack Tuckner is Zvovushe’s attorney. In an ABC News interview, he said the company feels like because they fixed it they figure they ought to be let off the hook, but he thinks many women end up leaving their jobs because of the kind of fear that Ryan Partnerships forced on to Zvovushe.

The company’s attorney declined to comment, said ABC.

D.L. Ryan Companies, Ltd., said in a statement, that it is an equal opportunity employer and more than 60 percent of the people who work there are female. In addition, they said they have a strong female representation in the senior levels of their company.

In the same statement, the company said it was confident when the Connecticut Human Rights and Opportunities Commission went over the case it would clear the company of any wrongdoing and come to the conclusion that it had complied with federal law.

Connecticut has an employment discrimination statute that affords women a reasonable amount of time to heal from a disability resulting from pregnancy, which is usually interpreted as six weeks for a vaginal delivery and eight weeks for a C-section delivery, depending on the circumstances, according to The American Pregnancy Organization.