Shell Oil sued for allegedly firing woman on maternity leave

By Annie Cosby | Mar 31, 2014

A Harris County woman is suing over claims her employment was unfairly terminated.

Nicole L. Ryder filed a lawsuit March 21 in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston Division) against Shell Oil Co. and Shell Exploration & Production Co., citing violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

According to the complaint, Ryder began employment with Shell in June 2008.  In August 2011, Ryder entered a Restricted Cash Agreement to Serve with Shell.

"Under that Agreement, in exchange for a retention payment of $60,300 to be paid at the conclusion of the retention period, Ms. Ryder agreed to remain employed at Shell through July 31, 2013," the suit states.

In the Spring of 2013, Ms. Ryder learned that she was pregnant.

"Due to her pregnancy, Ryder experienced severe morning sickness, which required her to miss work on May 8th and 9th, as well as May 29th and 30th," according to the suit.

She claims she informed Shell that she was pregnant and explained the reason for her absences. Shell asked that she complete the necessary paperwork  leave under the FMLA. Ryder says she completed and submitted the requested paperwork to Shell on June 27, 2013.

However, the FMLA forms submitted to Shell were incomplete, according to the suit. Specifically, the FMLA forms inadvertently failed to list the time period for the leave that was being requested under the FMLA.

Shell terminated Ryder's employment on July 8, the suit states.

"Prior to terminating Ms. Ryder’s employment, no one from Shell explained to Ms. Ryder the basis for its claim that it had not received the proper FMLA forms," the suit states.

"Instead of questioning Ms. Ryder and/or Ms. Ryder’s physician about the duration of the leave, Shell simply terminated Ms. Ryder’s employment," the suit claims.

Ryder says Shell refused to pay any of the amount due under the retention agreement because she did not remain employed until July 31. But Ryder claims it was Shell that unlawfully terminated her July 8, just weeks before the end of the contract.

Ryder is seeking back pay, front pay and the amount due under the retention agreement.

She is being represented in the case by attorneys Nasim Ahmad of Cline Ahmad in The Woodlands.

U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas (Houston Division) Case No. 14-CV-00726

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Texas. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note, a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it only represents one side of the story.

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