Sunday was Emily Manley's first Mother's Day. Three months ago, the Iowa native gave birth to a boy she named Jettson. Manley took time off from her job to raise her son, even though her employer didn't offer maternity leave. Instead, she used the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, taking three months of unpaid leave to be with her newborn. During that time, she was offered another job and it was too good to pass up, so she gave her boss her two weeks notice and in return, her employer sent her a bill for $2,600, the company's cost of her health care plus reimbursement for the paid time off she used. They wanted immediate payment.
Manley explained to Des Moines WHO-TV, "They had a policy that you had to burn through all of your [paid time off] prior to taking leave, so really you didn’t have a choice, you had to take it all before you could start leave." When she got the invoice, she said, "It was kind of a shock. I wasn’t prepared for it. I wasn’t ready for it, but I knew it was a possibility. I didn't know it would happen that fast and that I would have to pay it back that fast."
The worst part is that the company is allowed to do it. Per Iowa's FMLA policy, employers have the option to recoup those expenses if an employee doesn't return to work because of reasons other than a serious health issue or circumstances beyond the employee's control. Manley stated, "I can understand the company's point of view, but at the same time, to do that to a young family is really difficult to be on the other side of it."
Her old company wants payment by the end of June, noting that it is "an extension of one additional month beyond the original plan offered," and adding how it is, "completely fair given the length of time that has already elapsed since first starting maternity leave that was covered by FMLA on February 11th."
Manley disagrees since she just spent three months unpaid and just began her new job. She said, "It's a lot of money to us. We did our best to save when we got pregnant, knowing that we had bills coming, and did our best for that, but it’s kind of hard to prepare."
She spoke to a lawyer who explained it would cost her more money in legal fees to fight than it will to just pay it.
Manley hopes others learn from her experience. She said, "If there are other women going through this, you’re not alone. I didn’t work for a large corporation that you would expect something like this to happen. It was a smaller owned local company that you wouldn't think would exercise that sort of right that they have."