Former HR director says termination result of taking pregnancy leave

By Jim Boyle | Nov 7, 2014

A former director of human resources at a Montgomery County industrial manufacturing

company says that her termination came from her supervisors' discrimination against her pregnancy leave and violated provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to a federal suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Dawne Wentzel, of Souderton, Pa., seeks more than $150,000 in damages from the Superior Tube Company, a Collegeville, Pa., based manufacturer of small diameter metal tubing. According to the claim, her managers did not follow proper disciplinary protocol before firing Wentzel, and the real reason for the termination was because she took time off for maternity leave.

According to the complaint, Wentzel started working for Superior Tube in September 2010 and worked her way up to director of human resources, with a base salary of $100,000, plus bonuses. She claims that several of her managers over the years have consistently given Wentzel high praise and positive performance reviews.

On Nov. 4, 2013, the suit says, Wentzel took leave from her position for the birth of her third child. Her direct supervisor, Senior Vice President Bob Henry, said he would meet with her team once a week during her absence to ensure they were working under Wentzel's direction. The complaint says that, in fact, Henry only checked in on the staff twice.

Although she had taken FMLA-approved leave, Wentzel still performed work from home remotely and went into the office several times to address special tasks, the claim says. On Jan. 28. 2014, one week before her return, Henry informed Wentzel that he was not happy with the department's direction and has started recruiting for a new HR director to replace her.

According to the complaint, Henry's main points of concern regarded the lack of a proper performance review process, and an unsatisfactory talent review process. Wentzel responded that she brought up the lack of a performance review process with the company's previous president, who told her that the company's philosophy did not support the idea. Wentzel also told Henry that the talent review process was developed under her former supervisor, and she was told it was a success.

The suit says that Superior Tubing uses a five-step disciplinary process before terminating an employee. including verbal and written warnings and a five day suspensions. On March 4, 2014, Henry told Wentzel that she had been terminated, without following any of the steps formulated as part of company policy.

The plaintiff claims that the reasons for the firing are pretextual, and that the move was motivated by Wentzel's need to take time off for her pregnancy. According to the complaint, she had been replaced by an employee who is not pregnant and does not require time off from work.

Wentzel is represented by Andrew Abramson of Abramson Employment Law in Blue Bell, Pa.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-06402-RK.

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