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An Adoptive Parent's Right to FMLA

Since its enactment in 1993, The Family Medical Leave Act has evolved. Taking time off following the addition to a family is encouraged instead of derided. Adoptive parents are also afforded the benefit.  Many employers have stepped up to pay them during the all-important sabbatical.

Vared Yakovee started her position as a vice president and associate general counsel for the NBA’s Miami Heat in March of 2015. In the first four years of her employment, she received positive performance reviews. Her 2018 evaluation in January 2019 saw her superiors recognize the attorney with the highest ranking possible.

A Blessed Event. A Career at Risk.

Professional achievements turned into personal accomplishments. In July of that year, Yakovee received approval to become an adopted parent. Upon notification of a newly born infant, she requested to take maternity leave.

Three months later, she returned to the basketball franchise, only to notice a change in certain professional relationships at work. The dynamics were changing, if not deteriorating. The Heat’s chief attorney did not hide her “leave-driven” displeasure to Yakovee’s peers, questioning the lawyer’s work ethic and hinting that vacation time would not be available due to the leave.

Wearing of the growingly hostile environment, she turned to head of business operations Eric Woolworth to lodge a complaint. Her efforts were rebuffed without any independent investigation.

By year’s end, she was out of a job. The proverbial “straw” was allegedly an approved sick day to take her baby to the doctor. Upon notice of her termination, she left a severance agreement unsigned.

Yakovee has filed suit against the NBA franchise, accusing her employer of violating her rights under the United States Family and Medical Leave Act. The former employee specifically alleges harassment and termination, all for taking a leave of absence to adopt a child.

Like old habits, antiquated attitudes die hard. Even though many employers support, if not encourage family leave, others see it as everything from disloyal to lazy. A handful of bosses further add to their ignorance by not equating adoption with the actual birth of a child. Until habits and attitudes change, more legal actions are likely in the future.

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