Just a Reminder For Anyone Who Needs It: It's Illegal to Fire Someone for Having Kids On Their Zoom Call

San Diego mom Dris Wallace says she was fired from her full-time job in the financial industry because her boss didn't want to hear her kids in the background on calls.

The coronavirus is responsible for over 2.5 million illnesses and 125,000 deaths in the U.S. alone, and nearly every school was forced to close its doors between March and May 2020. Families across the country have had to get creative with making working from home actually work for them while also dealing with child care, remote learning, and, you know, staying healthy and sane. Many companies have shifted to accommodate employees, offering flexible workarounds during these unprecedented times. That was not the case, however, for San Diego-based blogger Dris Wallace of Modern Cali Mom.

In a now-viral Instagram post, Wallace says that she was fired from her full-time job in the financial industry, despite being told that she "had a bright future" and was doing well in her position, in the midst of a pandemic—all because her toddlers were too noisy.

"I finally had enough of the discrimination that my boss was giving me for him not being okay with hearing my kids in the background on calls," Wallace wrote. "He wanted me to figure out a way to keep the kids quiet. I went to human resources with proof of what was going for the last 3 months and 7 days later AFTER that I got fired!!!!"

In the emotional post, the mom of two kids—who are both under the age of 5, by the way—described the grueling schedule she made work since the start of the pandemic. "I have worked around the clock from home while watching my two toddlers," Wallace wrote. "I have met all the deadlines they have asked me for, even the unrealistic ones. The situation that I had endured the last 3 months is beyond stressful. How does a company that says that they understand and will work around the schedule of parents do the complete opposite with their actions? I'm devastated. I have poured hours, tears, sweat, delayed giving my child a snack when he wanted one because my boss needed me to do something right away. And what did I get in return? FIRED!!!"

Any parent or any person who's been around a toddler for five minutes understands that the concept of quiet time is pretty much nonexistent. Sure, you might be able to utilize screen time in a pinch, but keeping young kids occupied, quiet, and happy day for prolonged periods of time day in and day out is simply out of the question. Working parents around the country know this and, for the most part, there's a general acceptance of the fact that you're going to hear—or see—kids (and pets) on work calls while offices are closed. People have kids, they work, and life goes on. What's the big deal with actually acknowledging that people have families?

But beyond just accepting the fact that kids might make an appearance during a now typical work-from-home day, there should be more of an appreciation for what working parents have been able to accomplish during a freakin' pandemic. These are not normal times, and yet some employees have been more productive than usual. The New York Times reported that at Chegg, an online learning company, "86 percent of employees said their productivity was as good as or better than before" without having to deal with commuting or 9-to-5 boundaries.

According to a new survey of roughly 1,000 women by HeyMama and InHerSight, two in five women reported doing more work now than before the COVID-19 crisis, with nearly half of respondents less satisfied with their jobs while also having to worry about taking care of the kids. Among the top needs of the moms surveyed during this time were flexibility in work hours, more paid time off, more lenient deadlines, and emotional/mental resources and support. Women make up almost 47 percent of the workforce, and yet they're responsible for providing 70 percent of the child care during normal work hours. Working and parenting full-time—simultaneously—is barely sustainable in the best of circumstances. Something's got to give.

That's why Wallace is speaking out about her experience. "I'm going to fight for every mom that has gone through this. It's not okay to have to have to feel that your boss is making you pick your work over your kids during these times."

And, by the way, "not okay" is more than an understatement: gender discrimination and retaliation is illegal. That's why Wallace has since retained counsel, Daphne Delvaux, Esq., who is also a working mom. Delvaux shared in an Instagram post that the following claims have been filed in San Diego Super Court:

  1. Gender discrimination. "Motherhood is a 'gender subgroup' and employers may not discriminate against mothers."
  2. Retaliation. "The termination was in retaliation for [Wallace] reporting discrimination."
  3. Gender harassment. "Based on her boss's pervasive comments about her kids."
  4. Failure to prevent discrimination. "The company should have corrected and remedied the discrimination."
  5. Negligent supervision. "The company should have trained the manager."
  6. Wrongful termination.
  7. Intentional infliction of emotional distress.

"Please take comfort in knowing that the law is on our side," Delvaux added. "Justice will be served." And for others in a similar situation, know that there are options. For companies with fewer than 500 employees, parents are eligible for a paid leave of absence if they are without child care under the Families First Corona Response Act (FFCRA).

At the end of the day, parents should not be punished for something that's entirely out of their control. Period. Companies should really be using this time as an opportunity to support working parents—especially mothers—and create new policies for the future.

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