By Kate Briquelet
September 16, 2015
A New Jersey woman who used a surrogate to have twins is suing Verizon for allegedly denying her paid maternity leave—and she claims the company later fired her when she took time off to care for the babies, who were born prematurely and who both died shortly after birth.
Marybeth Walz, a Verizon executive for 17 years, postponed starting a family for her career and later was unable to have children because of complications from cervical cancer. But in 2013, she became a mom with the help of egg freezing and a gestational carrier, court papers show.
Walz says her human resources manager at Verizon initially congratulated her when she requested maternity leave. But after Walz indicated her children would be born through a surrogate, the woman’s “tone immediately changed,” court papers state, and the manager allegedly told Walz she was ineligible for paid leave.
A Verizon spokesman said he could not comment on Walz’s case due to the pending litigation, but that paid maternity falls under the company’s short-term disability plans and that “women who become parents via surrogates are not currently covered by this.”
Still, he said, “Verizon has a zero-tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind and strongly denies any claims of it in this matter.”
The federal lawsuit, filed in Massachusetts, claims Verizon’s treatment of Walz only worsened after her twin boys, Jude and Thad, were born four months early via an emergency C-section in November 2013. Walz alleges discrimination by Verizon on the basis of sex, pregnancy, and disability, among other potential violations.
The case is one of a handful to raise questions on how companies handle surrogacy, a method of having children that’s increasingly common.
Walz’s attorney, Nancy Cremins, said Verizon’s actions are at odds with the company’s claims online. On its website, the company bills itself as the “top company for working mothers” and claims to offer moms leave “so they can bond with their new child, whether that child joins the family through birth or adoption.”
“By not providing that opportunity to Walz… [it shows] the way she had chosen to start her family was not sanctioned by the company,” Cremins told The Daily Beast.
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