Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Help Me Howard: Pregnant
If you are pregnant, congratulations. Now a question: can your boss fire you? And if you have to go home on bed rest, do they have to pay you? Some answers you might need to know. Some answers you may not like. Here is Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When Sulaya Williams opens her eyes in the morning, the first thing she sees makes her smile.
Sulaya Williams: "Pictures of important people that I love, things that I want."
She calls it her happy wall, and the newest addition that is bringing an even bigger smile to her face is an ultrasound of her baby.
Sulaya Williams: "That's what we call it right now, 'Peanut,' because we don't know if it's a boy or girl."
Sulaya and her husband can't wait for the baby to be born, although the journey to get there has been tough.
Sulaya Williams: "I had, like, a threatened miscarriage, so it hasn't been fun at all."
Sulaya was a fifth grade teacher at a charter school in Broward, and when she met with her doctor, he delivered some bad news.
Sulaya Williams: "They're like, 'You need to stay on your back, elevate your feet, don't do this, don't do that.'"
You can't teach a class full of fifth graders from your back, and it devastated Sulaya to tell them the bad news.
Sulaya Williams: "And I didn't want to leave the kids alone. It was their last week, they're about to go to middle school. I'm very attached to them, like, even the last day, we were crying."
But the baby has to come first, so Sulaya went home to rest. She did grade papers to try to help her replacement. But unfortunately for her, her paychecks did not follow.
Sulaya Williams: "When my check was supposed to come, like, I was ready to pay my car note, and I looked in my account and there was nothing there."
Sulaya says she immediately called the charter school principal.
Sulaya Williams: "He said, 'Oh, you abandoned your job, and oh, this is not good. You're done as of June 11. You've been cut off.' So he's telling me he's under the impression I resigned, and I said, 'But look in my file. You have the copies of the ER notes, the doctor's notes. You have all of that.'"
Sulaya says she didn't quit her job. Her doctor ordered her to stay home. So not only does she have to worry about her unborn baby, she has to worry about her bills.
Sulaya Williams: "I don't know what's going to happen, like, rent has to be paid, my bills, and we have to prepare for this baby, and babies aren't cheap."
Pregnant without a paycheck is not a good thing.
Sulaya Williams: "My mother was like, 'Oh, you need to call Help Me Howard, because you know they're always doing segments.' And I was like, 'OK, Mom. I'll call.'"
Well Howard, do you still get paid while you're pregnant?
Howard Finkelstein: "If you can't work, they don't have to pay you, but they can't fire you. However, you are entitled to any benefits you have accrued, such as sick leave or vacation time. Sulaya has accrued benefits, and she is entitled to get them."
When we called the school's principal, he first told us he had no comment. Then, he told us we needed to have all the facts. We then asked for the facts, and he said he would call us back. He never did.
But more importantly, the school did contact Sulaya and sent her the paychecks they owed her.
Howard Finkelstein: "Federal law says you cannot fire a pregnant employee if they are still able to do their job, and you have to pay them the same salary. In addition, if it's a complicated pregnancy, the woman gets three months of unpaid leave prior to the birth. And in every pregnancy, the mother is entitled to take three months off after the birth, and when they return, their job is guaranteed."
The most important thing: Sulaya's high risk pregnancy is progressing well, and having the paychecks to pay her rent is not bad either.
Sulaya Williams: "As quick as that, all those months of calling people and trying to get help, and until I called you guys, that's what it took. I'm very grateful that you guys came."
Patrick Fraser: "Glad to help. Now, if you are pregnant, the last thing you might think about is your job, but it is very important."
Babied a problem that you want to put to bed? Contact us. You won't get a pregnant pause from us. We will deliver, and hopefully it will be painless.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Pregnancy Discrimination Complaints
Family & Medical Leave Act Violations
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