Dena Lockwood Was Fired When She Called in Sick to Care for Her Daughter

Another former employee of the company testified at the hearing that as soon as she announced her pregnancy, she was "demoted, treated with less respect and her opinions ceased to be taken seriously."

After that another parent employee left, Lockwood said, the focus turned to her and she soon found herself being stifled at meetings and not able to get a word in during sales conferences.

"I'd ask questions about when we were getting our commissions and they would just ignore me," Lockwood said of her managers. "Just ignore me, completely."

Lockwood's Case Calls Attention to Local Discrimination Laws

Lookwood's success will hopefully call attention to the other avenues parents can take if they believe they are been discriminated against because of their responsibilities to their families but don't have a case under federal law, said Stephanie Bornstein, the associate director of WorkLife Law.

"The Lockwood case made clear for the first time that employers and employer attorneys need to understand local, city and county laws on the issue of care giver discrimination, many of which go beyond state and federal law," said Bornstein.

Bornstein also co-authored a report that was released in December that found that at least 63 local governments in 22 states have passed anti-discrimination laws to ensure that parents like Lockwood are not discriminated against at work.

Most employers and employees only know about the Family and Medical Leave Act, but small businesses with 50 or fewer employees don't have to abide by the act and employees who are caring for a family member with a "short-term illness" don't qualify for leave under the act either, leaving many employees unclear of where they can take their discrimination complaints, she said.

"These local laws exist and they're serious," Bornstein said. "The goal for the report -- and in including Lockwood's case in the report -- was to let people know that local care giver laws even exist and for employers to know that they're potentially opening themselves up to liability under local laws."

Lockwood said she is happy to be an example for other parents who may find themselves in similar situations, discriminated against but not quite sure where they can succeed judicially.

"It's great, I couldn't have expected this," said Lockwood, adding that she is now working happily in sales for a machine parts company in Chicago. "It's never been about the money, it's about parents being treated equally to people who are non-parents by people who are their employers."

"And it's not just for single parents or female parents, it's about all parents."

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