A San Francisco woman has received hundreds of thousands of dollars as a settlement in her wrongful termination case. She was let go from her restaurant job because her employer poorly handled her family medical leave situation.
The woman had worked for her employer Bon Appetit Cafe, a restaurant inside of the headquarters of the biotechnology company Genentech for 13 years before her termination from that role. Shortly before her firing, her mother-in-law in Nicaragua had become deathly ill. She asked and was given permission by her employer to travel to be with her in her final days. She died soon after her arrival in the Central American country.
Soon after her mother-in-law's passing, the woman returned to the United States. She then found out that she'd been let go from her job.
When she inquired about her firing, she was informed that she'd been off work for too many days. She was also told that her mother-in-law wasn't considered an eligible relative under existing family leave laws.
The affected worker sought help from others to try to make sense of her options in her case. Investigators determined that there are two conflicting laws in place in California that may have led her employer to make the decision that they did.
They found that the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) does not allow workers to take leave to care for their in-laws. They determined that they can under the Paid Family Leave Act (PFLA) in the state though. It's unclear which one of these is applicable. That will be something for lawmakers to ultimately figure out.
Concerns about which law takes precedent worked in this one worker's favor though. In April, a San Francisco judge decided that the woman deserved to receive unemployment benefits and back pay. Her former employer was also ordered to pay her court costs of more than $25,000 and attorney fees of more than $210,000. She's now employed elsewhere.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that entitles workers to take time off to tend to their immediate family members' health, including their spouse's immediate family. It allows them to do so without fear of losing their job. Similar laws exist on the state level including the CFRA and the PFLA. If you have been deprived of your rights to these benefits, then an FMLA claims attorney can advise you if you can file suit.