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Hobby Lobby fired an employee over maternity leave?

Hobby Lobby allegedly fired an employee for seeking maternity leave.
Hobby Lobby allegedly fired an employee for seeking maternity leave.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Hobby Lobby, the Christian art-and-crafts chain, is in the news again regarding its employees. RH Reality Check reported on Tuesday, July 29 that a Flowood, Mississippi, Hobby Lobby employee was let go when she applied for maternity leave.

As of late, the company is best known for winning its battle against providing some forms of contraceptives to its employees. Such contraceptives were said to be against the company’s religious stance as they are believed to cause abortions. Although some contraceptives are not made available to employees, Hobby Lobby claims they treat employees well.

Felicia Allen alleges that when she put in for medical leave from her job at Hobby Lobby three years ago she was subsequently fired.Allen started at Hobby Lobby in July 2010. Soon after Allen started she found out that she was four months pregnant.

Although Allen knew that she did not qualify for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, she went to her supervisor to ask about her job security. “I asked her would I lose my job due to me being four months and only having five months before I have my child. She told me ‘no,’” Allen said in an interview with RH Reality Check. “I felt like everything was OK. I had talked to my boss, and she let me know that everything would be OK. I would still have my job.”

When time came for Allen to have her child, she was told that she would be terminated. After she gave birth, Allen attempted to come back to work three weeks later, but was not brought back on as an employee.

“I was like, I can’t get fired,” Allen said. “She can’t terminate me because I have to go have my child. I started asking everybody on the job, ‘Can they do this?’ And even the assistant manager who had just got hired [said,] ‘No, that’s not right.’”

Allen later attempted to apply for unemployment, where she hit another wall. Hobby Lobby had painted a much different picture than she did claiming that Allen had the choice to take personal time, but chose not to. She eventually won this battle for unemployment benefits.

In 2012, Allen attempted to sue Hobby Lobby over this unfair treatment. But, unfortunately because of paperwork she signed, she had no right to sue. The paperwork included a binding arbitration agreement, which states that all legal issues be settled outside of court in arbitration. Many companies are going the route of arbitration, but many view this “solution” as unfair to the employee.

Allen said that she was unaware that she could pursue arbitration. And, like many lawyers in potential arbitration cases, Allen’s lawyers at Watson & Norris PLLC in Jackson, Mississippi, did not take on her case.

Allen noted that the way she was treated is not in line with what the company is said to stand for. “How can you be Christian and lie about something to hinder your employee or don’t want them to come back after they’ve had their baby?” Allen said. “Or you’re taking up for your manager knowing that they had done the wrong thing. I feel like that’s not being Christian at all. That’s why I don’t even shop there anymore. I used to shop at that store all the time.”

Federal court records show that, like many other companies, Hobby Lobby has had several discrimination lawsuits against them, but avoid court by going the arbitration route. Details in those cases are not known. Hobby Lobby has not responded with its side of the story in the case of Allen.