Can I do anything legally ifmy employer reneged on a promise of 3 months maternity leave?

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Can I do anything legally ifmy employer reneged on a promise of 3 months maternity leave?

Before my wife started her new job, her friend promised her 12 weeks of maternity. She is currently pregnant and at high risk. He just recently told her that he could only give 6, maybe 8 weeks of maternity leave because he needs her there and is valuable to him. Then he told her that if she takes 12 weeks off, which is likely going to be the case according to her doctor, he made the comment that she may not have a position for her when she ants to come back. He also said that if she wants to use her breast pump that she would have to do it at lunch in her truck.

Asked on February 15, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the promise of 12 weeks of maternity leave was made prior to your wife taking this job, and she either left an existing job or did something else to her detriment (e.g. the two of you relocated for the position), and the employer knew or should have known that she would do something to her detriment in reliance on the promise, but made it otherwise, then the promise may well be binding under the legal theory of "promissory estoppel." However, on the other hand, if either she had already accepted the job--so that the promise did not change her behavior--and/or did not have to do anything to her detriment to take the job (for example, she was unemployed at the time), then the promise is most likely not enforceable. To be enforceable, there must detrimental reliance on a promise--some action to the employee's detriment, taken on account of the promise.

If her employer is large enough (at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius) and she has worked there more or less full  time for one year (or more), you wife may be eligible to take unpaid leave for medical care and/or child birth under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If she is, then even if the employer's promise is not enforceable, this would let her take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without the risk of losing her job.


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