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Maternity Leave Does Not Guarantee Employment for Poor Performer

Michelle Bailey was employed by Oakwood Healthcare in its human resources department. She had been working for the company just eight months when she began a three-month maternity leave. The day of her return, she was fired based on her work performance and some misleading information discovered on her employment application. These performance deficiencies had come to light while her supervisor was filling in for her during her absence. Ms. Bailey had never been apprised of any issues with her performance and thus sued the company for pregnancy and sex discrimination.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case. For that court, the essential issue was whether Ms. Bailey had presented enough evidence to overcome Oakwood’s asserted legitimate reasons for her termination. It was incumbent upon Ms. Bailey to provide enough evidence to show that the reasons given by Oakwood were in fact a pretext for discrimination. The court concluded that she had not met her burden. The significant embellishments on her resume alone were found by the court to be sufficient to justify her termination. The problems discovered in her work performance during her absence were not persuasively refuted by Ms. Bailey. Thus, she could not show that the reasons given for her termination were a pretext for discrimination.
In ruling for Oakwood, the circuit court acknowledged that the “timing of Bailey’s termination was unfortunate and the manner in which the decision was communicated was clumsy,” but “Oakwood’s decision was not so unreasonable as to be disbelieved by a reasonable jury.”