A contract baker has agreed to pay $60,000 to a woman who said she was fired after giving birth and taking eight weeks of maternity leave.

The settlement resolves allegations Omni Baking Company of Bellmawr and Vineland violated the New Jersey Family Leave Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said Ashley Ruiz-Lopez went on maternity leave in January of 2016. The following month, she went back to the office to deliver a a temporary disability claim benefit, he said. She also gave a note from her doctor saying that her delivery date was February 27, 2016, and gave her projected date to return to work as the middle of April, Porrino said.

After giving birth she went back to the office with another note from her doctor and noting that she could return to work on April 17, Porrino said.

Porrino said Ruiz-Lopez told investigators that despite multiple attempts she did not hear back from the company's human resources manager. On March 29, Lopez was fired from her job, filing a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights six weeks later, Porrino said.

At the time, Omni denied it was in the wrong for firing her, claiming she had not formally requested the leave under the Family Leave Act, Porrino said.

During the investigation, Director Craig T. Sashihara said in a Finding of Probable Cause that employees only need to provide enough information about a plan to take time off under the law for them to be covered by it.

He also said that for the company to fire her "while she was recovering from childbirth-related surgery without engaging in any communication or interactive process to determine whether it would provide a reasonable accommodation for her pregnancy related condition and or disability" violated the discrimination law.

In his report Sashihara also said Ruiz-Lopez's waiting to return to work until April would not have caused a major disruption to Omni's business workings.

Porrino said the settlement of the case involved "an important issue," which mattered not only to women who were pregnant, but also families and employers as well.

"The fact is that our state and federal laws protect pregnancy, and employers need to make certain their policies, management training, and handling of situations involving pregnant workers reflect a full understanding of employee rights under those laws," he said.

In addition to the payment to Ruiz-Lopez, Omni also agreed to pay $10,000 to the Division on Civil rights and create and distribute a new family leave policy. It also agreed to provide anti-discrimination training to its 450 employees and managers. The company will also be monitored by the Division on Civil Rights for one year to ensure they are in compliance wit the family leave and discrimination acts.

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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com

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