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Employee Wins ADA Trial for Post-Partum Depression

Maria Alves was an administrative assistant at Boston University when she gave birth to her son. She took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act following the birth of her child. She was diagnosed with postpartum depression during her leave. She asked for an extension of her medical leave and then a second medical when her postpartum depression did not improve. Boston University declined her request and her employment was terminated. Alves brought suit against Boston
University for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She was awarded $144,000 in compensatory damages for lost wages and emotional distress. She will also receive interest dating back to when the case was filed in 2017.

Post-partum depression reportedly affects 10% of new moms and can last for months. Often, women experience lasting sad, anxious or “empty” mood, leading to feelings of hopelessness, guilt or helplessness, along with restlessness, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, and thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts. As a mental health issue, it can be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation. The jury found that the university failed to engage in the interactive process to find a reasonable accommodation for Alves. Boston University also failed to convince the jury of its defense that there was an undue hardship in granting Alves extended time for her leave.