If after I had been on an agreed 6 months maternity leave I was told there was no work for me, can I file for unemployment or sue them?

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If after I had been on an agreed 6 months maternity leave I was told there was no work for me, can I file for unemployment or sue them?

I worked for a small office for 14 months. When I got hired my manager went on maternity leave for about 6 months. Later I got pregnant and I was offered the option to take up to 6 months of leave as well. I took the 6 months. About 2 weeks before the day I was supposed to return to work, I was told there is no work for me anymore. Am I eligible for unemployment and do I have a good cause to sue them?

Asked on June 1, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

IF you only took the leave because the employer offered it to you, then yes, you may have a legal claim. You did something to your detriment (took an extended time off from work, which led to your termination), based on a promise which your employer made, which promise was made to induce you to take the time off; that may be enought to allow you to enforce the promise under the theory of "promissory estoppel."

It is not a guaranty that you would win: if you would have taken time off anyway, leaving work if necesary, for example, you cannot enforce the promise (since then there would have been no detriment to you from the promise--you would have done what you did anyway). Or if the termination was either due to something wrong which you did (e.g. you lied to your employer about something, which  was discovered) or was due to some factor that would have caused you to be laid off even had you remained there (e.g. a restructuring or downsizing), you would not have a claim. But from what you write, it is at least worthwhile consulting with an employment law attorney to review the situation in greater detail, to evaluate whether you would have a legal claim.


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