This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Freaked out

I don't know what to do. Apparently, I don't have a job anymore.

I turned in my badge and key card at the office Christmas party just after the baby was born. I had told them I would be back to work in February. I went to visit this week and again reiterated that. Well, I just got an e-mail from the office manager saying they didn't think I was coming back and that she thought they had already made offers to other people. So I e-mailed the partner in charge of hiring, and he said they've made an offer to one person, they needed four for the summer, and he would "let me know" if I had a job. WTF? I didn't interview anywhere else because I thought I already had a job. They made me to believe I already had a job. I can't believe this. I don't know what to do. I passed on both sets of OCI's, I haven't sent out any resumes. It's so late in the year, I don't even know where to begin to look.

I'm just so upset. I don't know what I did wrong. They obviously don't want me back, otherwise, there wouldn't be a question about it. There's never been a question about the other clerks returning. I can't believe this. I need the money, even if it isn't great money. And I really wanted to keep working there. I like working there. I feel like they used my "maternity leave" as an excuse to kick me out the door without actually letting me go. But if they didn't want me back, why didn't they say so in the fall, when I could have sought other opportunities? What am I supposed to do now?

I'm terrified I won't be able to find anything this late in the year, and we definitely need the money. We're still struggling to pay off the medical bills, they were higher than I thought they would be. I just don't know what to do. I'm so angry and frustrated, and hurt. I don't need this right now, I really don't.


LL said...

Oh my god! That's appalling! Maybe you should ask the partner more pointedly why they were looking at other people for your spot when you had the understanding it was yours for the taking. Job searching is so stressul, you definitely don't need to be doing it right now.

I'm really sorry- I hope that either your firm comes to its senses and reassures you of your position, or that you are able to easily find something you'll like even more!

Shelley said...

OMG, that is so incredibly tacky. Unbelievable.

Is career services at your school approachable? You might want to make an appointment to explain what happened. You might also want to check your state's statutes to see if they've violated the law. And there's always a letter to them explaining exactly what you've spelled out here.

Matthew is now over my shoulder telling me about FMLA and the particulars of Title I covered entities -- he says he would be happy to talk to you if you wanted to call. (In a past life, he was an FMLA coordinator and still has heavy involvement in the process where he works.)

PT-LawMom said...

I think you should make it perfectly clear to the office manager/HR director that it was your understanding that you were on maternity leave. If necessary, ask them why you have been "terminated". That's incredible! What exactly was your position? It's definitely worth checking into. Do you think it was just a misunderstanding or do you think they're trying to push you out?

legally certifiable said...

That is so wrong. Why are so many in the legal profession convinced that you can't be a mom and a lawyer? I agree that you should look into your legal options.

Proto Attorney said...

I'm nearly certain they are pushing me out. I have copies of emails that I sent to the office manager saying I was coming back in February after I had been asked what my availability was for spring, and I kept referring to it as "maternity leave." And they totally lied to me about this semester. They said there isn't enough work, but they've had several associates quit and I've heard they're totally swamped.

I don't know anything about employment law. Does FMLA even cover leave for part-time employees?

If I did something wrong, I'm not aware of it. If I did, I wish they had told me. The only feedback I ever got was good, so I thought they were happy with my work, and there was never any indication they weren't happy with my work, or with me, or that they didn't intend on keeping me on (they've kept on every other clerk who's wanted to stay). I mean, they had acted a little weird about me being pregnant, but I didn't think anything of it. There's an attorney there about to pop out her third kid, and they haven't pushed her out! So I wasn't worried! And here I was doing the pregnancy thing now so I wouldn't have to interrupt my actual career!

I'm just devastated. Now I think even if they do let me come back over the summer, if I even should. Obviously they aren't going to offer me an associates position after graduation, so I need to start looking elsewhere.

PT-LawMom said...

You know what, I don't think the part-time thing is the issue, but I know for a fact you have to have worked 52 weeks for them before you're eligible and that the only employers who have to comply with FMLA are the ones who have 50 employees or more. That said, there may be local labor laws that apply. And if that doesn't work, negative word of mouth might! Talk to your career services office.

LL said...

I think it's definitely worth talking to career services- just to understand what happened. If they're pushing you out because of the pregnancy, make them say that. If they want to pin it on your work, make them give details. I know I would have a hard time doing that, but it will be worth it for your piece of mind and they should not just be able to get away with what they're doing.

And I agree with what you said about looking elsewhere. I know it's a hard time to be doing that, but even if they gave you a spot, it would be hard not to feel awkward in being there and working with them. And if you want more kids you shouldn't have to deal with all their bullshit all over again.

If it helps, I'm still outraged on your behalf. I would really, really try to get them to give you more information- make them acknowledge what it is they're doing.

newduck said...

I am so, so outraged about this, and I agree with the other readers that you should pursue it. My first thought was that your career services office should DEFINITELY know about this! I would also take up Shelly's offer to talk to the guy who was an FMLA coordinator. I would also talk to the dean of your law school about this. While career services may not have much pull, the dean's involvement might send a stronger message to the firm.

Proto Attorney said...

Well, they have over 50 employees, but I haven't worked there 52 weeks. They would count my employment as beginning in May 2007, even though I had worked there previously. So I guess they have permission to screw me over.

Even if I did something wrong, or they weren't happy with my work, they should have said something a long time ago. That's what infuriates the most. Don't make me think I'm doing a good job if I'm a terrible employee. If I'd known that, I wouldn't have killed myself working two days a week last semester, while taking 16 hours and having a nightmarish pregnancy.

If they don't take me back, I'm going to push until they tell me why, but I don't really trust them to be honest with me. They aren't dumb enough to say they're letting me go because I had a baby. They'll be certain to say it was my performance regardless of whether it's true or not. I've worked for enough assholes to know they'll find the one thing I did wrong and make it about that. Maybe I researched an issue but wasn't thorough enough, maybe drafted a summary judgment memo that wasn't very good. Who knows.

Butterflyfish said...

This is NOT cool. Def. go to dean and career services.

Calling BULLSHIT on the firm.

Jessica said...

I am so sorry. This is wholly unacceptable behavior on their part.

I hope that career services, the dean, or the partner will be able to do something to help you and at the very least that your school cares enough about its students to reconsider inviting this firm back for future on campus interviewing programs.

Julianne said...

The one year requirement for FMLA can be divided up (ie. you qualify if you worked for 6 months in 2007 plus another 7 months in 2005). You may have a harder time making the requirement for 1250 hours worked in the 12 months prior to starting the leave. (This works out to about 25 hours/week for 50 weeks).

For more info, see http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/

You should also check your state and local laws.

Good luck!!

Law Student Hot Mama said...

That is totally ridiculous. When I got pregnant, I was working at a firm and when I tried to talk to them about maternity leave/when I would return, they were always "too busy" to talk. Finally, a few weeks before I was due I just gave notice . . . then they had the nerve to call me a few weeks later (at home) to ask if the baby had been born yet and to find out when I was returning!

So - at first I had thought they were using maternity as some sort of excuse and didn't want me to come back, but then they called me at home asking when I was coming back. I came to the conclusion that they just didn't know how to handle maternity leave properly . . . maybe your job is the same way. Sorry to hear it - it's incredibly slack.

Beanie said...

Yeah, definitely get the school to put the pressure on the firm. If NALP rules apply here, they could be considered having been in violation even if we're past the deadlines.