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School psychologist nets $69K in wrongful termination suit

Parents are provided with certain rights in the modern workforce, including the ability to take time off to care for their newborn or newly adopted children. These provisions, which fall under the Family Medical Leave Act, allow new parents to take up to 12 weeks' time off from work without professional penalties. A school psychologist in San Rafael alleged that her FMLA rights were violated, and she has won as $69,000 suit for wrongful termination.

The woman was a bilingual school psychologist with the district. She was fired in June 2010 because she filed a request to take time off to spend with her newborn child. Reports show that the district refused the woman's requests to work from home, even though she had done just that during the preceding school year. She was also prohibited from taking an extra day to work at home each week in order to care for her child.

District officials claimed that the woman was fired after the 2010 school year because of her performance, with several complaints being filed by middle school and elementary school principals. The woman was accused of failing to attend meetings, perform student assessments and complete her work. Supervisors characterized her as unprofessional, unprepared and argumentative, according to courtroom documents. Representatives for the school district say they are puzzled that the woman posed such a legal threat, given the documentation that supports her termination. They still decided to settle rather than risk a large award from a jury trial.

Still, the woman was entitled to her 12 weeks of leave through the FMLA; the act does not state that the leave must be taken all at once. At the time she was fired, the woman still had nine weeks available to her through the California Family Rights Act.

The woman likely received compensation for wrongful termination, along with loss of income and other claims. Financial compensation for emotional distress and court costs may also have been included in the case.

Source: San Rafael Patch, "School district settles wrongful termination lawsuit for $69K," Nicole Ely, Jan. 24, 2013.

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