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San Francisco employer settles wrongful termination case

A woman has settled her lawsuit against her former employer one year after filing a wrongful termination case.

The woman worked for 13 years at a café in South San Francisco and was fired when she took a few weeks away from work to travel to Central America to care for her mother-in-law, who was dying. She told her supervisor why she needed the time off, and the leave was granted.

But when she returned, things had changed. She was fired abruptly, she told a Bay Area television station, because the company told her she had violated its policy on family leave.

"I think maybe they should be more compassionate to workers," she said. "To me, I think it's wrong. It's a family."

The company said it does not consider in-laws to be covered under the family leave policy. The television station's reporting showed that there is a loophole in state law when it comes to in-laws.

Under the state's paid leave law, caring for in-laws is grounds to take family leave, but under the California Family Rights Act, it isn't. Only an act from the legislature can close that loophole. California lawmakers did vote to do just that, but the legislation was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown.

One Bay Area law professor said this can be considered discrimination against employees who have sick or elderly parents.

"This is a pattern unfortunately that we often see," the professor said. "I think there's going to be another push this year for exactly this legislation."

The café worker said she had hit a rough patch before her mother-in-law's death and had to miss time at work because she became ill and then had a car accident. She said she thought the company wanted to fire her – and did when its computer spit out that she was ineligible to have taken the leave for an in-law.

The woman filed her wrongful termination case more than a year ago, and it was settled days before she was to go to trial. The mother of four now has a new job.

"I have a lot of relatives and they depend on me. One of them was my mother-in-law," she said.

This woman did what she knew she had to do – and had permission to do so, too. She was within her legal rights to file a wrongful termination case.

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