Seventeen Fired EIC Michelle Tan During Her Maternity Leave, Which Is Totally Legal Apparently
Maternity leave is supposed to be a time when new moms get to bond with and adjust to a new baby, and also try, if they get a chance, to rest up after giving birth to another human. Which is why it’s pretty insane that Seventeen fired its editor-in-chief while she was on maternity leave, according to Women’s Wear Daily. Michelle Tan was named editor-in-chief in November 2014, and reported to editorial director Joanna Coles, who is also the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan.
Tan, who was previously the special projects editor at People, was brought in after Seventeen fired former editor-in-chief Ann Shoket and other editorial roles were cut in an attempt to reorganize the magazine’s management. Since taking over, Tan has tried to redirect the magazine toward teens with a fashion sense, spotlighting new designers and launching “The Edit by Seventeen,” a capsule collection they debuted this July on Instagram and was available on an e-commerce site. To do that, Hearst suspended an apparel contract with Sears.
Circulation has remained steady under her leadership, but newsstand sales have decreased 47 percent. Getting teens to buy (or even subscribe) to magazines in a digital and mobile world is a Herculean feat. Digitally, the magazine’s also been struggling. But there’s been no official word as to why Tan was let go, and that she was let go on maternity leave is pretty shitty all around.
Hearst offers eight weeks of paid maternity leave, and it seems like if someone is on maternity or any kind of parental leave, they shouldn’t be let go while trying to take care of their child. Firing a parent while they’re out of the office for a legitimate reason and someone is covering for them at work sort of defeats the idea that leaving the workplace to take care of a child is a safe thing to do.
Then again, getting fired on maternity leave is totally legal. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures that someone can’t be fired because they are on leave, but an employer is allowed to make a business decision, much like Hearst appears to have done, about the future of the company. However, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s cool.
Krista Mitzel, managing partner at The Mitzel Group, LLP, told Vogue, “How a company goes about dealing with a termination while someone is on any type of medical leave speaks volumes about the company’s culture, how they value employees, reflects on employee satisfaction surveys, and exhibits their sophistication about risk assessment and risk management.”
Hearst had the legal right to fire Tan, but it feels dirty to sack someone while they’re home with a new baby. Especially at a publication that’s supposed to empower young women.