What can we do about my wife being denied unemployment and maternity leave/family medical leave?

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What can we do about my wife being denied unemployment and maternity leave/family medical leave?

During my wife’s last trimester her employer cut her hours down to 4 per week, even though she was still willing to work more. It then denied her unemployment, saying there were hours out there for her to have. Now it is denying her maternity leave/ family medical leave after having the baby. Is there anything we can do?

Asked on June 15, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

There might not be anything you can do about the maternity or family leave: while there are some laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which guaranty medical or family leave under some circumstances, many smaller employers are not covered by it. For FMLA, for example, only employers which have more than 50 employees within a 75 mile radius are covered. If you wife's employee is large enough to qualify, she they may have violated the law by not allowing her to have maternity leave; but if it's a small employer, they may not have done anyting wrong.

As to the issue of cutting her hours--sometimes, being cut down sufficiently in hours or shifts qualifies as being "constructively" (or effectively) fired, which would allow your wife to receive unemployment. Being cut down to 4 hours per week may be enough to be constructively fired, and it would be worthwhile appealing a denial and/or consulting with an employment attorney.


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