Dispute & Resolution

Background

Jill is 25 years old; she has been employed at a bank since she graduated from high school. Jill’s husband, Ken, is a police officer. When Jill and Ken learned they were expecting their first child, they agreed Jill would return to work after her six weeks maternity leave and their baby would be cared for at a licensed day care center owned by Trudy.

When Jill told her supervisor about her pregnancy, she was referred to the human resources department. Jill’s maternity leave was arranged and accommodations to Jill’s schedule were arranged so she could leave the bank, and go to the day care center to breast-feed her baby every few hours.

A healthy baby girl was born to Jill and Ken; they named her Alison. A couple of weeks before the end of Jill’s maternity leave, Ken paid Trudy $1,000 for the first month of Alison’s care.

Ken dropped Alison off at day care at 8 a.m. the first day that Jill returned to work. When Jill showed up at 9:30 to nurse Alison, Trudy told her she could not nurse the baby and told Jill her presence was disruptive.

Jill’s attempts to reason with Trudy were unsuccessful. Feeling she had no choice, Jill left with Alison.

Jill went to the bank, explained her dilemma and took the day off. Jill also called Ken and told him what had happened.

Later that day Ken went to the day care center to get a refund. Trudy refused to refund any money. Ken could not stop payment on the check because it had already been cashed.

A couple of days later Ken again tried to reason with Trudy, but she would not budge and continued to refuse to make a refund.

Ken then went to the courthouse and filed a small claims action against Trudy.

When Ken and Trudy appeared at court, the Judge told them to go out to the hall, meet with the volunteer mediator and try to resolve the case.

I was the volunteer mediator who tried to help Ken and Trudy resolve their dispute.

Discussion

I first met with Trudy. Trudy said when Ken and Jill chose her to care for their daughter, they did not mention that Jill would be showing up every few hours to nurse their baby. Trudy said this was disruptive to the routine of her business and that if all mothers showed up to nurse their babies it would be chaos. I tried to understand why it wasn’t helpful for Jill rather than staff feed Alison. Trudy had no explanation, but was adamant; she would not refund any money.

Since Trudy refused to negotiate I told the court they needed a hearing.

I was interested in the outcome so I sat in on the hearing.

Hearing

Ken and Jill both testified about arranging for day care and agreed they did not tell Trudy that Jill would be coming to nurse the baby.

Ken testified that he dropped the baby off at 8 in the morning. He left diapers, wipes and a change of clothing for Alison in a diaper bag. He did not leave bottles or formula.

Jill testified about not being allowed to nurse her baby and leaving day care with the baby at 9:30.

Ken testified about his attempts to get a refund from Trudy.

Trudy testified that no refund should be paid because the agreement did not allow Jill to nurse Alison while in Trudy’s care.

Decision: The judge said since Trudy did not provide the service, she was not entitled to payment. Trudy was to reimburse Ken $1,000 plus the cost of the filing fee and cost to serve Trudy with the claim.

Mediator Notes

It is obvious that Trudy should have negotiated.

If you have a dispute you would like me to consider in this column contact me at: (801) 994-6000 or [email protected]