South Jersey Bakery, Fired Worker Settle Civil Rights, Family Leave Violation Claims
Operators of a South Jersey bakery, accused of firing a worker during her recovery from childbirth, will pay $70,000 to settle claims of violating the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA) and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD).
Omni Baking Company, of Bellmawr and Vineland, is ordered to pay $60,000 to Ashley Ruiz-Lopez of Vineland, and $10,000 to the state Division on Civil Rights, according to the office of Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino.
Additionally, the firm is required to revise and circulate its family leave policy, offer anti-discrimination training to its roughly 450 workers and managers, and undergo a year of monitoring by the Division on Civil Rights.
A receptionist for the company since June 2014, Ruiz-Lopez took maternity leave January 29, 2016, and prior to giving birth the following month, delivered a claim for temporary disability benefits to the company, along with a doctor's certification of an estimated delivery date of February 27 and an estimated return date of mid-April, authorities said.
Ruiz-Lopez delivered her baby on February 20, and later brought to the company a note from her obstetriciton-gynecologist.confirming a caeasarian birth, and an April 17 recovery date.
She told state investigators that she got no response from Omni's human resoucres manager, despite several attempts in person and by phone. Her job was terminated March 29.
Omni responded to her Division of Civil Rights complaint with a denial of wrongdoing, and an assertion that she failed to formally request leave under NJFLA, and therefore was responsible for her own discharge.
In a probable-cause finding, Division Director Craig T. Sashihara said that a worker satisfies NJFLA stipulations by providing an employer with information sufficient to serve notice of time off for a purpose covered under the law.
Sashihara also characterized the lack of post-birth communicaiton with Ruiz-Lopez, to determine reasonable accomodations, a violation of the Law Against Discrimination, adding that no allegations or evidence existed to illustrate that Ruiz-Lopez's anticipated April return would unduly disrupt the company's operations.
"An employee should not have to choose between keeping her job and raising a family," Sashihara said. "New Jersey's family leave and pregnancy protection laws were created to maintain the integrity of the family unit and help society prosper. Our commitment is to ensure that employers adhere to those laws."
Source: New Jersey Attorney General's Office