Got Laid off After Returned from Maternity Leave

Updated on February 03, 2019
K.L. asks from Carlsbad, CA
18 answers

I took approx. 5 months maternity leave which was all legal because I worked it out with HR making sure I followed the guidelines. I just got back to work from maternity leave two weeks and today, I got laid off. I've worked for the company 2 years total now. My boss only spoke to me twice and gave me one small task to do since I got back. I sent him an email asking for work and directions yesterday. My boss pulled me into his office with HR today and said he had to restructure and they don't need my position.

My boss and I had conflicts and really did not get along. He didn't treat me well compared to my colleagues and it was really obvious. He down talked to me, was negative, pointed out only wrong things, did not compliment, took credits, negatively talked about me to his colleagues, etc.

Before coming back to work, a Director (I'll call her Natalee) whom I worked with in a different dept asked if I'd like to report to her instead when I return to work. There was no open position in her dept - it was just trying to relieve the issue I had with the boss and so she want to do me a favor by having me report to her instead as I have worked with her and her team before. She knew about my problem with him because I reported him to HR when I was pregnant and heard that he also was reported to HR by two of his colleagues. I was ecstatic to hear that. She got approved from the CEO and HR to proceed but was told she needs to talk to my current boss to make sure he is ok with this. Surprisingly, he fought to keep me. They went back and forth for approximately two months. In the end, he won. Someone from the company thought he did not want me to report to Natalee because he did not want to lose a headcount to her. Looking back, I think he wanted me to continue to report to him because he wanted to lay me off when I return to work from maternity leave.

They gave me the minimum severance package. My husband said technically I can sue them. I have never sued anyone before and don't know where to start. I don't know the advantage and disadvantages of this. I know someone got laid off weeks after they returned from maternity leave as well from a different company. It's so sad that too many women are being disrespected this way. I wish that someone would teach companies a big lesson.

I started searching for a new job until I was really showing my pregnancy bump (about 5 months in). I didn’t have much luck but a recruiter found me on LinkedIn and I made it to the third interview process in which I posted months back about contemplating about whether I should tell the interviewer I’m pregnant. Obviously, I did not get the job probably because my baby bump was too big when they called to see me the second time.

Do you have any suggestion or ideas how and where I should look into this? A friend told me to look into EEOC. I may just do some research for my knowledge and I"m not sure if I want to sue - just thinking...

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I was curious and just for knowledge (I now have plenty of time on my hand), I contacted a lawyer. He was very nice to call back immediately and we spoke for about 45 mins. My take away from the conversation was that this type of situation happened more often than we wanted - it happened to people on leave (period), not just maternity leave. From his experience, the case could finish in weeks or months. The usual outcome is the company pays a little more on the severance. However, this comes with a lot of emotions, time, and fees. I told him whether there is a case or not with my situation, I'm not upset with the situation as I do want to get laid off and I got my wish (the co just doesn't know it). I was contemplating down to the last day before I had to return to work from maternity leave whether I should go back to work for this boss. I honestly wanted to quit. I'm glad I waited out and got EDD and severance package. I thanked the lawyer and moved on as I had a nice severance package and am just happy I am out of the toxic workplace.

A month after I got laid off, I found a new job! The location is a lot closer to home with a higher job title. The company decided to pay me the max of the range and bump my job title without telling me - I found out in the offer letter. Things happened for a reason and if I hadn't gotten laid off, I wouldn't have found this place where I can challenge myself in a new role to better my career. The irony about this is that I did not immediately apply for a job after I got laid off. The Director found me on LinkedIn and I interviewed for it. They gave me an exercise to work on to see how I approach things before they choose the final candidate. For some reason, I had an intuition that I would be fine and will find a job soon so I wasn't worried.

Thanks to the mamas that provided professional and positive feedback and your own experiences. Thanks Susan and Mary for reaching out.

Don't give up - it will always work out :)

Featured Answers


answers from Seattle on

California is an "at-will" state. Which means they can fire you for any reason as long as it doesn't violate federal law.
I don't think it's fair, but I don't think you have a case. Also, I am not a lawyer, so maybe I am wrong!
You really only worked for them for a year and a half and then 5 months of maternity leave *which is REALLY long in the US*
Sorry....this sucks...but I think you just need to look for a new job and not jump on the sue happy truck.

More Answers



answers from Dallas on

Your husband is right... you can sue. I can also sue you. One of the other posters can sue me. Doesn’t mean anyone will win.

You’re in an at will state, unless you can PROVE the reason you were let go is because of discrimination of a protected class, you’re wasting time you could put into finding a new job. By the way, “just came back from maternity leave” is not a protected class, and if it were, you’d have to prove that’s WHY. They can say we just don’t need someone performing that task anymore, someone else absorbed that position, etc.

In the future, just because a 5 month leave is “legal” and “approved”, it doesn’t make it a good idea. It gives a company 5 months to realize they can get the job done without you there.

Sounds like you had a jerk boss anyways, find a better fit, get excited about a change, and enjoy that new baby!

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


I'm finding issues with your story. In May 2018 (not even a year ago) you asked a question about an interview and telling them you were pregnant. That's not even nine months, so how does this add up to 2 years? give you an "OUT" were you interviewing for a new job and stayed with the old one?? That would make sense....and give you an "out" so it doesn't look like you're lying or misleading people.

You have NOTHING to sue them over. You returned to work and worked. I know California has lawyers ready to sue for a hang nail, but you don't have a case. You were gone five months and he proved he didn't need you because you were gone so long. That's not THEIR problem - it is YOUR problem.

Apply for the position with "Natalee" and see happens then. If they don't hire you back there? You might have a case. Who knows - they may have already filled the slot.

You chose to stay with this boss. Did you let HR know there were issues prior to your leaving for maternity leave? If not, you "suffered in silence" and didn't let anyone know what was going on. Again that's on YOU. I'm not sure how you have a case to sue. It wasn't about your pregnancy. You came back to work. They didn't let you go the day you came worked. You were NOT busy during those two weeks. You asked for work. Hence proving their point, not yours.

You have two choices - apply for the position with Natalee or move on and find another job. My suggestion is find another job,

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

I'm with Jennifer T. and Margie G. While it appears (based only on information from your perspective) that your boss did not treat you well, there's little solid evidence that you were fired due to taking maternity leave. If you really want to continue working for this company, see whether 'Natalee' still has that position open. However, you might think long and hard about whether you want to work at a company which does not rein in someone who apparently behaves unfairly like your boss. Maybe this dismissal is a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to find a more congenial workplace? In the future, Jennifer makes a good point about taking longer-than-typical leave for family matters. While the US has really family-unfriendly practices compared to many other societies, the fact is that standard family leave is 3 months. Being gone for longer than that time sets you (or your position) up for seeming unnecessary and vulnerable to exactly what happened. They didn't need you for five months, so they decided they could just cut it. In any case, it is unfortunate that this happened, and it seems like you might be best served by not staying tied to the situation any further (such as through legal action).

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

from the sound of it you're going to have a hard time proving that your release had anything to do with your pregnancy. in fact, it sounds as if you didn't like your boss and are looking for a reason to sue over your dismissal, which seems to have followed protocol.

you can always sue, but you can't always win. is it worth it to you to hire a lawyer on such a flimsy foundation?

getting laid off is not necessarily disrespect, even if it happens in close proximity to pregnancy leave. your premise presupposes that all pregnant women and new mothers are great employees. there are lots of reasons other than babies for women to lose to their jobs.

i suggest you put your time and energy into finding a job that's a better fit.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think you’d have a case if you had worked for 2 years, told them you were pregnant and then got fired. But they kept you on during maternity leave. Then you’re back but they don’t want or need you. I would think they considered the legal ramifications already and found there are none. You’re not pregnant so how can you claim bias? You’re the same as any other working mother at this point. I’d focus on finding another job. And I’d try to see if there was something I did or didn’t do to make my boss dislike me so much.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

California is at at will employment state, there won’t be any lawsuit

6 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Two years? You were interviewing for this job in May of last year and wondering if you should even mention your pregnancy.
Maybe you were let go for lack of honesty.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I came back from leave once, and wasn't given my old position but a comparable position which I believe was legal. I didn't like the position as it was unsuitable. However, in the end it lead to far greater things for me - but I did end up leaving the company when a position elsewhere presented itself. So this could be a good thing (opportunity) for you since you had looked elsewhere (from previous posts).

As to being able to sue, that's hard to say. They did have a position for you upon your return but appeared to not have any work for you. I don't really get that. It seems like they'd (he'd) hoped you would quit or something - by not allowing you to switch to the other team or having anything for you to do. I would talk to someone in the know - contact the organization others have mentioned. I think the HR department at your company would have checked into all this to cover themselves, so doubtful you'd have a case, but you never know.

Slimey for sure, and I don't think employers tend to be good to returning moms (not from my experience) in many cases. They say they will be but it's not always the case. It depends on your experience and how much they want you. Maybe they caught wind of you applying elsewhere (very easy to hear about in small industries etc.). Gossip happens. Anyhow, best to you - I think you'll find something now and just concentrate your efforts on moving forward. If you do look into it, don't let it take over your thinking - because it will get in the way of finding something that will suit you and your family's needs.

Best of luck and I'm sure you'll find the right fit :) Congratulations on your new baby!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

The only way to know if you have a case is to talk to a lawyer but if your position was truly phased out and you were not replaced it might be hard to prove wrongful termination.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I had this happen to me 15 years ago after my daughter was born. I went out on early maternity leave due to complications and came back to work after 2 months of my daughter was born. I went back with restrictions until the doctor could run some tests. My job deceived they didn’t want to deal with the restrictions and forced me to commute to a location that was almost an hour and a half away. The location I worked at prior to going on leave was 3 miles from my house. When I asked for a transfer to a closer location I was told if you don’t work in this store then you don’t have a job. I said fine then I guess I don’t have a job since the commute is just too long. I contacted the EEOC and filed a complaint against the company. The company wound up giving me a large settlement since what they did was wrong. I also had worked for the company for 8 years. It was a long process but the EEOC did help me out with it. They also had made sure that the company put it in their HR file that if anyone called about my employment with the company they weren’t able to say anything but verify my work history. That if they gave any derogatory information they were in contempt of the agreement and I could open another lawsuit against them for deformation of character and for violating a contract. Hope this info helps you. It can’t hurt to reach out to the EEOC. They would be able to guide you best.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Where you fired because you took Maternity leave? If so you may have a case.

Are you part of a protected class? Being a new Mom is not a protected class so not sure if EEOC can help with anything there.

California is an at will state for employment meaning whoever you work for can fire you without giving you an reason. Your employment is at the will of the company you work for.

Check your severance package that you accepted you may have given up any rights to sue

All the other stuff is just office politics.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Not knowing all the facts in your case, I can't say whether you'd win or not if you sued.

Contact EEOC and an employment attorney. You can prevail on an EEOC claim if you were let go because you're a member of a protected class -- race, ethnicity, religion, sex, etc. An employment lawyer will help you if you have a case based on this or other issues.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Added: Just want to add here that you DO NOT have to tell a company that you are pregnant. It is NOT dishonest as a poster asserted. It is YOUR choice. And HR could have told you that you needed to come back earlier. This is not your fault.

Can you go to Natalee and ask her for a job now?


Can you go to Natalee and ask her for a job now?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You could contact the EEOC and you could contact an employment attorney.
Anyone can sue but honestly I'm not sure you have a case. What grounds? What laws did they violate?

Perhaps he realized that with you gone as long as you were gone the position you held was not necessary and they consolidated. Who knows. You have no proof that they laid you off for any other reason than restructure. That said, it might help you feel better talking to an attorney.

You mention the minimum severance package. Well you were with the company only two years. So I'm not sure how much of a severance you would think you are entitled to.

Good luck!!!


You could contact the EEOC and you could contact an employment attorney.
Anyone can sue but honestly I'm not sure you have a case. What grounds? What laws did they violate?

Perhaps he realized that with you gone as long as you were gone the position you held was not necessary and they consolidated. Who knows. You have no proof that they laid you off for any other reason than restructure. That said, it might help you feel better talking to an attorney.

You mention the minimum severance package. Well you were with the company only two years. So I'm not sure how much of a severance you would think you are entitled to.

Good luck!!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Ugh. What a situation.

You could call the EEOC or your state's commission against discrimination, but it may be hard to show that this was related to maternity leave.

I would suggest you contact an employment lawyer. If you don't know one, contact other lawyers you know (real estate, family, litigation, anything) and ask for referrals.Gather your data (emails, etc.) and also write up a timeline and what types of conversations you had with whom. Show that to the lawyer and see if you have a case. The consultation should be free, and the lawyer will bill you if he/she takes your case.

My husband was caught in some nonsense some years ago, and he put everything together. He sent packages to the CEO and HR director, but the deciding factor was an employment lawyer finding some things in his performance review package that didn't justify the dismissal and the taking of his bonus. He got a very nice settlement, about 18 times greater than the legal fee.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

If you were laid off as part of a group - other were laid off too - then there's not much you can do.
Company I worked for did this all the time.
50 people at a time, general 'restructuring', etc.
The best excuse I ever heard was the company was going to a %70 percent 'low cost center' structure - which meant they were firing people in the US and replacing them with people in India (I got 8 weeks notice due to my seniority and got to train my replacement by phone for that 8 weeks).
The only person I knew who won his case was someone who was literally 2 weeks away from retirement when he was laid off - he got his full pension.

If you are in the US, 5 months maternity leave is unusual - it's usually anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks.
Being gone from the company for almost 6 months means they learned they didn't need your position or if they were forced to restructure you were an easy write off since you had a lot less face time at the office while you were gone.
They should probably offer you a similar job (there's no guarantee your prior job will be waiting for you when you get back from leave) but then a lot of people would be so angry that working for that same company would be difficult.

Talk it over with a lawyer and figure out what you want and if it's worth fighting for.
In the mean time you will need to buff up your resume and look for other work in case your lawsuit doesn't pan out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Employment law is by no means my area of expertise, but do be aware that there are statutes of limitations involved. If you choose to pursue a charge against your former employer, you should do so quickly. Some claims come with a statute of limitations as short as 180 days. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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