Becoming a mother is hard. There is the obvious stuff like morning sickness and complete strangers thinking it’s acceptable to touch your stomach without asking. Then there are those unexpected hardships that would have been nice for someone to give you a heads-up on — loss of teeth, loss of balance, and, in some cases, loss of employment. From the American Lawyer:
A complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleges DLA Piper fired a senior associate in New York because she requested maternity leave.
Former senior associate Anisha Mehta, represented by employment litigation firm Wigdor, claimed she had received no adverse performance reviews or criticism prior to her firing. To the contrary, Mehta left a job at K&L Gates in Chicago to join the firm, relocated to New York and received a $54,600 signing bonus, and also garnered a six-figure year-end bonus and three substantial raises by October 2022, according to the complaint, which was filed in December and circulated by the associate’s attorney this week.
Yet in early October 2022, Mehta was fired six days after she submitted her formal request for maternity leave, which occurred while she was six months pregnant. Reached by phone, Wigdor partner Jeanne Christensen said DLA Piper fired Mehta to avoid paying 18 to 20 weeks of her salary while she took maternity leave, leaving Mehta with scarce options to attain a job while already six months pregnant. To date, Mehta is still unemployed.
Talk about a crappy baby shower present. As most people (should) know, firing a person for asking to take maternity leave is retaliatory. This may still be news to law firms — remember that partner who characterized maternity leave as “sitting on your ass” not too long ago? It is still early to say who was or was not in the wrong here, but the facts do look to be in Mehta’s favor.
Mehta’s supervisor Gina Durham, partner and deputy practice leader of the intellectual property and technology group, cited Mehta’s lack of preparation for a March 2022 client call and a sloppy brief as grounds for her termination. Refuting Durham’s alleged rationale, Mehta’s complaint states Durham hadn’t adequately communicated Mehta’s responsibilities for the client call and noted the sloppy brief was in fact the work of a different associate. Meanwhile, partners such as Chicago intellectual property practice co-chair Keith Medansky praised Mehta for her work, per the complaint.
We will keep you up to date as the case develops.
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.