Fired for extra maternity leave, woman approaches court

New Delhi, May 23 (Calcutta Tube) When she gave birth in December 2008, little did Navneet Kumari know that she would lose her job. Fired for applying for a third month of maternity leave, she has gone to court against the NGO which, ironically, works for child welfare and which she served for over 20 years.

‘I had been working with the Delhi Council for Child Welfare (DCCW), an NGO, since 1987. I was on maternity leave from Dec 30, 2008, to Feb 28, 2009,’ Navneet told IANS. She gave birth to a boy Dec 31, 2008, at St. Stephens Hospital.

‘When I applied for extending my leave for one more month, my services as an office assistant were terminated,’ she said.

On April 13, 2009, she claims to have received a letter from the NGO, undersigned by its president Neena Macedo, saying: ‘Your absence from work has been detrimental for the smooth running of the Council’s work…I regret to inform you that we cannot give three months maternity leave to any person…I have no option but to relieve you of your duties with immediate effect.’

‘I was shocked,’ Navneet said. But she requested the organisation’s president not to terminate her services, saying she was willing to join duty immediately.

Her lawyer, Pardeep Gupta, said they approached the Tis Hazari court last year.

The court sent a notice to the DCCW seeking its position on the matter. The next hearing is July 7.

‘We will plead that the act of the NGO is a heinous crime and the guilty should be punished,’ Gupta said.

He said as per the rules and regulations of the Council, two months of maternity leave was permissible with full pay. Further six weeks of leave is allowed without pay for an employee who had rendered three years of service.

‘But my client has served the organisation for around 22 years,’ Gupta said.

He said the organisation’s action was in complete violation of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, and it was tantamount to a criminal offence with imprisonment of not less than three months that can be extended to a year.

Navneet said she would continue her fight till she gets justice.

‘I will continue my fight till the last to get justice. I even wanted to join the organisation after they refused to extend my maternity leave. But instead they terminated my service,’ she said.

(Rajeev Ranjan Dwivedi can be contacted at rajeev.r@ians.in)

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