Achieving a balance between work life and family responsibilities has long been a challenge for people in Florida and around the country. When a child or family member is injured or ill, it typically falls to the female member of the household to care for that family member. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed into law to protect men and women who need to take leave from their jobs to care for an ailing family member. A woman in Florida has brought a gender-based employment discrimination claim against her employer, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department.
Her husband, also a sheriff’s deputy, was seriously injured in the line of duty as he was struck by a hit-and-run driver while assisting an injured motorist. The woman was, at the time of her husband’s accident, a tactical flight observer with the sheriff’s office. The position involved accompanying pilots on airborne assignments.
She claims that she lost her position as a result of her husband’s injury. She requested leave under the FMLA but was denied the leave. She was also passed over for promotion in favor of male colleagues who were reportedly not as well qualified. She ultimately lost her position because, according to the lawsuit, she was more focused on her husband’s recovery than her job.
No one should ever have to be in the position of choosing between keeping one’s job and caring for an ailing loved one. Yet sadly in Florida and around the country too many women find themselves in just that situation. While the federal law exists to protect workers, it does not offer paid leave and so many cannot afford to even consider the option. A woman who finds herself in the position of having to choose may wish to consult with an attorney experienced in employment discrimination cases to ascertain what legal options may be available.