|By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Part of her financial plan was to refinance the mortgage on her Pine home -- something that should have been painless for Ms. Neals, an attorney and wealth adviser whose employer provided paid maternity leave.
Instead, she spent her leave dealing with paperwork demands and rejections from
"I spent the entire time trying to get this loan closed," Ms. Neals said. "They were insisting that I couldn't unless I physically went back to work."
Ms. Neals is married but was the sole applicant for her mortgage.
Her resulting two-year legal struggle ended Thursday, when U.S. Magistrate Judge
"It's extremely significant," said
Mortgage Guaranty argued unsuccessfully in court pleadings that it had tried to finalize the loan, but Ms. Neals nixed it.
Ms. Neals, 34, said she could have just closed the loan after returning to work, but sued because she was "driven by what they took away from me.
"I felt like I had worked so hard to orchestrate a really good maternity leave where I could spend time with my baby and have peace of mind," she said. "There's just nothing like being at home with a newborn baby. And they just took that away from me."
She complained to the
"As part of the settlement, MGIC did not admit fault,"
Still, Mortgage Guaranty is paying as much as
The case has "raised awareness of these continued issues of discrimination still very present in our country," said
The women covered in the class-action lawsuit could get from
Ms. Neals said she's cautiously optimistic that the company is no longer considering maternity status in its mortgage insurance decisions.
Companies have never tried to make a business case for withholding loans from pregnant women, said Ms. Smith. That's because there's no reason to believe that new parents are bad risks.
"In this situation, is a single mom going to [sign a loan and then] say, well, I have no place for me and my child to live?" she asked. "Is a couple going to say, oh, we're going to live here for three months, and then we won't be able to make our mortgage payments?"
Despite the lack of justification, the practice of factoring maternity leave into mortgage decisions has been hard to stamp out, said Ms. Smith. She said lawyers and advocates have been fighting mortgage firms on the issue since 1998, when a
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