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Former Cal Poly Employee Sues University for Wrongful Termination, Pregnancy Discrimination

Jun 19, 2017

Los Angeles, CA (Law Firm Newswire) June 19, 2017 – A former human resources employee at Cal Poly is suing the university for wrongful termination and discrimination based on sex, pregnancy and medical condition.

On September 30, 2016, Sarah Lalou Lessing was terminated five days after going on disability leave for her pregnancy. The university alleges she was terminated for documented performance issues.

In the suit, Lessing states that she discovered she was pregnant in September 2016, five months after starting her job as administrative support coordinator for Cal Poly’s human resources department. The suit, filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, names the university and Lessing’s supervisor, Samson P. Blackwell, as defendants.

After Lessing began getting sick at work, she informed her supervisors that she needed to take a one-month leave as a result of complications related to her pregnancy. Blackwell informed Lessing that her leave was protected under a pregnancy disability leave policy of the university. However, just five days after Lessing began her disability leave, she was informed of her termination.

In the complaint, Lessing alleges that her disability leave was approved by her employer after submitting all necessary documentation and after she informed her supervisor of when she would begin to take her leave.

Under the California Pregnancy Disability leave law, it is unlawful to fire someone for being pregnant or taking pregnancy disability leave. Employees who have been employed for a total of at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months are entitled to take time off work for medical reasons related to pregnancy or childbirth, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (CFRA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). However, an employee can be fired for reasons not related to their pregnancy or disability.

The suit states that five days after Lessing had begun her pregnancy disability leave, she was informed of her termination. In a statement, the university disclosed that Lessing was a “probationary employee who was non-retained because of performance issues.”

Lessing is suing the university for damages, attorney fees and the cost of the suit.

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