Recently, a team leader faced criticism for letting go of an employee who had just returned from maternity leave and choosing to retain a less expensive, newly hired worker instead, claiming that this is the “fair” decision he had to make.
Feeling like “the Devil”
“I feel like the devil right now, so I’ll accept whatever judgment you all have,” the OP states in their Reddit post.
The OP is currently leading a team of around 6 members, and their company is known for providing a large amount of maternity leave, a total of 10 months.
Joyous News at the Office
Recently, one of their employees, who will be referred to as Jess, informed the company that she was pregnant.
The team mainly specializes in project-based work, and during the period in which Jess went on maternity leave, they completed the project they were working on before she left and started a new project without her.
Team Thrives Despite Absence
While Jess was on maternity leave, the team had to find a way to get things done without Jess's expertise in certain areas.
Ultimately, they were able to adapt to the situation, and over time, some members developed the skills needed to take over some of her responsibilities.
Currently, the workload that Jess used to manage is divided equally among the OP and two other team members, while a new team member was hired to handle the other half of Jess's workload and take on additional responsibilities.
The new employee was hired at a significantly lower cost as they were a recent university graduate, and their salary is only a fraction of what Jess was being paid.
Someone Has To Go
“Now Jess has come back to the team, but there is another issue,” the OP notes.
Unfortunately, the firm has recently informed the team that due to budget constraints, they can no longer afford to keep a 7 person team and will have to let someone go, coincidentally after the OP had submitted paperwork for Jess's return.
With the project halfway through its estimated completion time of 10 months, the OP was faced with a difficult decision: choosing between Jess and the new hire who had taken over her role.
Expectations vs Reality
Although it was not their usual practice, the team decided to hire a replacement for Jess because they expected a heavy workload for the current project.
However, it turned out that the workload was not as significant as they had anticipated.
The Final Decision
In the end, the OP chose the replacement for Jess because of the significant cost savings that came with hiring someone who was “far cheaper,” which wouldn’t have been possible if they had kept Jess on.
Another factor that led to the replacement of Jess was the fact that her replacement was already up to date with the project and could help the team to continue working smoothly, whereas Jess would’ve needed to be caught up on half of the project before she could start working.
Staying in the Groove
The OP also considered the fact that the replacement had been working consistently for the past 9 months, making it easier for him to stay in the flow of work.
On the other hand, Jess had been out of the field for an extended period, which could make it challenging for her to readjust to work life.
Strong Client Relationships
On top of being more cost-effective and up to speed, the replacement also had the advantage of having established relationships with the clients, who enjoyed working with him, and he outperformed Jess in terms of work quality and team collaboration, whereas Jess didn’t have the same level of client connection.
Letting Go Of A Single Mother
While it would have been ideal to keep both employees on the team, the OP had to prioritize the success of the team and the firm, even if it meant having to let go of a single mother who was in a vulnerable position without another job lined up.
A Promise to Help
In an effort to support Jess during a difficult time, the OP promised to write her a “brilliant” letter of recommendation and suggested that she keep an eye on job openings at their firm, which they hoped would have the budget to be able to rehire her in the near future.
This suggestion clearly didn’t sit well with Jess, who responded with anger towards the OP, as he shares, "She snapped at me, told me not to bother, called me a c.nt, and left.”
Practical or Lack of Empathy?
Despite having reasons for replacing a single mother with a cheaper and more qualified employee, the OP is now struggling with the guilt of their decision, seeking advice on whether they were in the wrong for doing so
“I know I sound cold and heartless but I had to be fair to both employees, not just Jess, right?” the OP asks the Reddit community.
“Be Prepared For A Lawsuit”
“YTA,” voted one Reddit user. “Every single reason you mentioned was only true because she had been gone on maternity leave which legally CANNOT be a reason to terminate someone. Yet it is the cause behind everyone reason you gave. Be prepared for a lawsuit.”
How Can Women Feel Safe in the Workplace?
“I’m going to go with YTA,” agreed another individual. “Even though you listed your reasons, it won’t play that way in court.”
They questioned, “Will any woman feel safe in her job at your company if she gets pregnant now?”
“You're punishing her for having a baby and taking the maternity leave that your business offers,” one person stated.
“You knew she was coming back, why didn't you hire a temp replacement until that time? You're not going save money after she takes legal action for being fired because she's a mother. YTA.”
Equality or Discrimination?
“YTA precisely for this: ‘She has been out of the field for a prolonged period,’” wrote another commenter. “It’s called HAVING A BABY. This is what women have to do to have a family; this is why laws protecting women on maternity leave exist in the first place.”
“I bet you call yourself a person who believes in equality; I bet you don’t think of yourself as a s.xist at all. But you are one.”
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Sylvia Silverstone is a passionate writer who loves to share her knowledge and expertise on a wide range of topics, including beauty, life hacks, entertainment, health, news, and money. With a keen eye for detail and a talent for storytelling, Sylvia's engaging writing style keeps readers coming back for more.