June 27, 2022

Volume XII, Number 178

Advertisement
Advertisement

June 24, 2022

Subscribe to Latest Legal News and Analysis
Advertisement

Ohio Supreme Court Holds Minimum Length of Service Requirements for Maternity Leave do not Violate Ohio’s Pregnancy Discrimination Law.

Jan Hensel of Dinsmore & Shohl’s employment and education law practice groups successfully argued a case before the Ohio Supreme Court that could have a bearing on how maternity leave is administered by Ohio employers - including Ohio public school districts. In McFee v. Nursing Care Management of America, Inc. d/b/a Pataskala Oaks Care Center, the Ohio Supreme Court held that Ohio law does not prohibit minimum length of service requirements for maternity leave, and does not require preferential treatment of pregnant employees who do not qualify for leave under their employer’s leave policies.

At the time of Tiffany McFee’s hire, Pataskala Oaks had a leave policy modeled after the federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). The policy permitted twelve weeks of leave for employees who had been employed for a minimum of one year. Approximately eights months into her employment, McFee requested leave for pregnancy-related conditions. However, McFee was ineligible for leave under Pataskala Oaks’ policy because she had not worked a minimum of twelve months. McFee nonetheless took unapproved leave and was terminated.

McFee filed a charge of sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission ("OCRC"). The OCRC interpreted Ohio's pregnancy discrimination statutes, R.C. 4112.01 and 4112.02, to require Ohio employers to provide expectant mothers with leave for child birth or pregnancy-related conditions even if the employee is ineligible for such leave under uniformly-applied leave policies. Applying this logic, the OCRC found that Pataskala Oaks’ leave policy constituted unlawful sex discrimination.

Pataskala Oaks appealed the OCRC's decision and the case ultimately made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court recognized that Ohio’s pregnancy discrimination statutes direct that pregnant employees be treated “the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected but similar in their ability or inability to work.” Therefore, the Court held the statutes do not provide greater protection for pregnant employees than for non-pregnant employees. The Court further held that an employment policy that imposes a uniform minimum length of service requirement with no exception for maternity leave is not direct evidence of discrimination. In such instance, a claimant would need to offer evidence of discriminatory intent in order to successfully prove a case alleging sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy leave. McFee in this case offered no such evidence.

Lesson learned

Many school districts have child care and family related leave provisions in their collective bargaining agreements. However, many of these leave provisions require the employee to be eligible under the FMLA (i.e. 12 months of continued employment) or some other period of continued employment (i.e. a full school year) for an employee to be eligible for such leave. Non-union school districts oftentimes model the eligibility requirements of their child care leave policies after the requirements set forth under the FMLA and/or state law.

This case makes clear that laws prohibiting sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy do not require employers to waive eligibility requirements or otherwise afford preferential treatment to pregnant employees. Ohio employers should now be able to uniformly apply leave policies that treat all temporarily-disabled employees (including pregnant employees) the same without fear of reprisal from the OCRC.

 

© 2022 Dinsmore & Shohl LLP. All rights reserved.National Law Review, Volume , Number 197
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

About this Author

Catherine Salmen Wright, Dinsmore Shohl, Employment Lawyer,
Partner

Catherine S. Wright is a Partner in the Labor and Employment Law Department. Catherine provides employment advice to clients, conducts training, and provides investigation assistance. She has defended against state and federal administrative complaints and handles employment litigation stemming from civil rights claims, the Family Medical Leave Act, and wage-and-hour issues. She has experience representing public employers, including public schools and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, defending First Amendment-based and Section 1983 actions. She has worked extensively with nonprofit entities...

859-425-1068
Jan Hensel, labor, employment partner, Dinsmore Shohl, law firm
Partner

Jan E. Hensel is a Partner in the Labor and Employment Department.  Ms. Hensel devotes her practice exclusively to the representation of employers in the employment law arena. She consults with employers of all sizes to help them comply with the myriad of State and Federal employment laws that affect the workplace, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII and the Ohio Civil Rights Act. Ms. Hensel frequently conducts onsite trainings and seminars to...

614-227-4267
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement