Fired pregnant worker alleges discrimination in federal lawsuit

Jon Campisi Sep. 8, 2011, 5:23pm

A Philadelphia woman who had to take an extended medical leave because of pregnancy complications, and who claims she was fired as she was about to return to work, has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against her former employer.

Attorneys Richard S. Swartz, Justin L. Swidler and Manali S. Arora, of the Cherry Hill, N.J. law firm of Swartz Swidler, LLC, filed the complaint Sept. 6 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Danatta Streeter.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is King of Prussia, Pa.-based DIRECTSAT USA, LLC.

According to the complaint, Streeter, who began her employment with the company as a service dispatcher in 2006, was terminated from her job in late May of this year. The firing came mere days after she was set to return to work from a prolonged medical leave.

In February, Streeter told her employer she would have to soon begin a leave of absence in anticipation of giving birth and subsequently bonding with her child, the suit states. It was originally expected that the leave would begin toward the start of April.

Toward the end of February, however, Streeter began experiencing complications related to her pregnancy, and it appeared as though her leave would have to start in March instead of April.

The defendant company then provided Streeter with paperwork for short-term disability leave, the suit claims. The company failed, however, to set it up so that Streeter’s leave would fall under the category of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

“Plaintiff believed that her leave would continue until May 26, 2011, based on the approval of short term disability benefits until that date,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant did not provide Plaintiff with any documentation notifying her that her leave would end on a date prior to May 26, 2011.”

Streeter, who ended up giving birth in mid April, attempted to contact her employer on May 25 to say she was ready to return to work, but instead was told by a human resources representative that she was terminated, as her FMLA leave had been exhausted, the lawsuit states.

At the time of her firing, the lawsuit claims, Streeter had cumulatively taken 12 weeks of absences that the defendant should have “designated and treated as FMLA-protected, but failed to do so. In fact, Defendant fired Plaintiff because of her FMLA-protected absences, and to prevent her from taking further FMLA leave.”

Streeter seeks judgment against the defendant in the form of lost earnings and benefits and other court relief. She also seeks to have the defendant prohibited from continuing its discrimination against employees who need to take medical and family absences.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05582-TON.

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