Important Development in Case of Worker Fired After Giving Birth

Kashawna Holmes learned that she had lost her job just days after giving birth to her son in 2014. She had been working for the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) coordinating a senior companion care program, a job she loved. Her termination followed months of harassment related to her high-risk pregnancy and marital status.

Ms. Holmes filed suit against UDC in December 2015. She is represented by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, First Shift Justice Project, and Andrews Kurth. UDC moved to dismiss the complaint, largely relying on the argument that because Ms. Holmes’ position was a term-limited appointment she had no right to reinstatement under the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA).

Kashawna Holmes

Last month, the trial court denied UDC’s motion to dismiss. Washington Lawyers’ Committee staff attorney Christine Dinan explains why the court’s opinion is an important step forward in the case—

Q: First, can you explain the nature of Ms. Holmes’s position?

CD: Ms. Holmes worked for UDC in a grant-funded position that was renewable each year, assuming there was funding for the position.

Q: Why does that matter?

CD: After they fired her, UDC said that Ms. Holmes had no right to return to her job, or an equivalent one, under DC’s family and medical leave law because of its term-limited nature. They said she couldn’t even bring a DCFMLA claim because of the type of job she had.

Q: What did the court say?

CD: The court roundly rejected this argument. One reason that’s a big deal is because DC employs a substantial number of people in jobs that are structured this way. Now the city is on notice that it can’t simply argue that workers like Ms. Holmes have no protection under the DCFMLA.

Q: Why else is this opinion important?

CD: Like many employers often do in employment discrimination cases, UDC made lots of arguments that disregarded clear case law. The court examined each of these arguments and made clear that they were not legally supportable, which was validating for Ms. Holmes. It’s also a useful opinion for employment lawyers, as there are few DC opinions that clarify the pleading requirements under DC’s family medical leave, human rights, and pregnancy discrimination laws.

Q: What’s next for Ms. Holmes?

CD: Now, we are moving forward with the case—UDC will have to defend its actions in court.

For more information about WLC’s employment discrimination matters, or if you’ve been discriminated against at work, contact Samantha Weaver at Samantha_Weaver@washlaw.org or 202-319-1000.

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