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Wrongful termination alleged by employee let go during maternity leave

One of the great employee benefits offered in Ontario is the right to take maternity leave. Having the freedom to take a leave from work to give birth and then spend extended time with the new baby knowing one's job is secure is very healthy for young families. One woman, however, believes that opportunity was stolen from her under false pretenses and is now suing her former employer for wrongful termination.

A 32-year-old woman was working in the human resources department of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), when she left for maternity leave in Feb. 2016. In her suit, she alleges she received notice on June 22 that she was being terminated from her position effective as of the end of her leave in Feb. 2017. When she asked why she was being let go, she was informed her position had been eliminated and replaced with a more senior position that exceeded her qualifications. She was also told the job required working evenings and weekends and MLSE felt it would be unfair to ask that of her as she now had a young family.

The woman acquired a copy of the job posting for the new position and claims it is essentially identical to what she'd been doing before going on leave. She also claims that MLSE has behaved in this manner before, having "restructured" a co-worker out of her position while away on maternity leave. Her suit seeks damages for what she alleges are violations of the Employee Standards Act and the Human Rights Code. MLSE has publicly refuted her claims.

To restructure a department and eliminate a new mother's position while she's away on leave certainly seems like acting in bad faith. Still, it will not be easy to prove such an allegation in court, especially with the full weight of a large corporation thrown against the suit. In order to have the best chance of being successful, a man or woman suing for wrongful termination may want the assistance of lawyer who deals with Ontario labour laws on a regular basis.

Source: Toronto Sun, "MLSE accused of discriminating against female employees on mat leave", Michel Mandel, Dec. 22, 2016

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