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legality of maternity related dismissal

PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:31 pm
by Radin
\"My wife is in an interesting situation that we need some advise on. She is a postdoc for the head of an institut....and she is 8.5 months pregnant and recently (within the past week)was informed by email that this PI would not fund her after her maternity leave (though he just got a big NIH grant). When asked his reasons for not continuing her employment, he said that she was productive, but gave no justification other than \"I am the CEO, I can do what I want.\" So she wrote an NRSA to fund her in this lab, which he agreed to sign. Then, 4 days before the due date he refused to sign the paperwork for the NRSA submission UNLESS she signed a written contract with him stating that if she receives the grant, she will stay in his lab for the duration of the grant without any provisions for major life changes (36 months total).\" posted in an ealier thread.

I want to answer your question from a legal point of view.

If your wife signs the contract, it would be set aside (void) for unconscionability or duress.

A contract is valid only if it is bargained for by free and voluntary minds. There has to be meeting of the minds.

If a contract is signed, the general rule is that the contract would be binding, even if the person signing it has never read it. This is called the signature rule.

However, a signed contract can be set aside for duress. Duress has 4 elements:
1. protest at time of formation;
2. no independent legal advice;
3. no other alternative;
4. prompt step to avoid.

A signed contract can also be set aside for unconscionability. It has two elements:
1. unfair bargain;
2. inequality of bargaining power.

If the fact you disclosed is true, your wife\'s contract with her boss is void.

Even if it is a valid, it can not be enforced, because to enforce it requires specific performance, which is akin to slavery. No court in the US will uphold an employment contract which requires specific performance.

Just my two cents from my study of Contract Law in law school.