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Woman Who Uses a Gestational Surrogate Sues Verizon For Workplace Discrimination

FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)Marybeth Walz has filed a lawsuit in Boston federal court against Verizon Network Solutions, of Basking Ridge, where she worked as a salesperson, earning $170,000. Ms. Walz has filed suit for improperly handling her untraditional method of having a child. The complaint accuses Verizon of pregnancy, disability, and sex discrimination, as well as employer retaliation and violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

At the age of 29, Ms. Walz had a surgery for cervical cancer, which made her unable to carry a child. Due to this, Ms. Walz had her eggs frozen in hopes of eventually becoming a mother.

Almost 10 years later, Ms. Walz’s sister-in-law agreed to serve as her gestational surrogate. Ms. Walz’s eggs were fertilized by a sperm donor and implanted in her sister-in-law. In 2013, Walz found out that she was expecting twin boys. The lawsuit alleges that the Verizon officials were congratulatory, however, she would be unable to qualify for paid leave because the pregnancy was carried by a surrogate.

According to NJ.com, Walz said that if she would have adopted a child, Verizon would have likely given her a paid maternity leave and $10,000 toward adoption expenses. Also, Walz claims that during her conversation with human resources, an employee suggested she adopt her twin boys. Ms. Walz replied, “That makes no sense.” There was no legal reason to adopt the boys because the children were produced by her own eggs.

The twin boys were born three months premature. Ms. Walz traveled to North Carolina to oversee the care of her boys as she was their only legal guardian. One of the boys, Thad, passed away within 24 hours of being born. The second baby, Jude, passed away six months later.

During that time, Ms. Walz worked remotely from North Carolina. She went on disability for depression after her second baby passed away. According to the lawsuit, Ms. Walz alleges that Verizon demoted her to a different sales team and shortly after served her with a termination letter.

Ms. Walz alleges that Verizon violated disability laws by denying her paid maternity leave when her twin boys were born. Verizon has not yet commented on the allegations because the case is awaiting a decision about whether it should be transferred to the District Court of New Jersey. Ms. Walz wants her former employee to be held accountable for not providing her with paid maternity leave.

Given that case law in this area has not yet been decided, we would advise that an employer faced with a decision of whether or not an individual is eligible for maternity leave should contact an employment law attorney to stay in compliance with business regulations involving maternity leave.

If you currently own a business, or are planning to open a business, the attorneys at Blodnick, Fazio & Associates are available to help you with any issue that arises from the employer-employee relationship, involving employment discrimination concerns. Contact the experienced New York City and Long Island business law attorneys at Blodnick, Fazio & Associates by calling (516) 280-7150.

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