Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States does a poor job of accommodating parental and medical leave and protecting the jobs of workers who must take time off for these reasons. The U.S. has only the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid, job-protected leave to qualifying employees who take leave for qualifying reasons.
The FMLA is far from perfect, but it at least allows many parents to take time off for the birth or adoption of their children or to attend to a personal or family member’s medical condition. Unfortunately, too many employers continue to violate employees’ FMLA rights and find ways to avoid complying with the law.
Two recent news articles highlight this problem. The first involves a woman who is suing her former employer. According to the woman’s lawsuit, she had worked for the company for about five years before requesting FMLA leave to treat a personal medical condition. She alleges that she was fired the very same day and that her company cited reasons that were supposedly unrelated to her request to take leave.
Without knowing the full facts of the case, it isn’t possible to judge whether or not the company violated the woman’s FMLA rights. But the timing of her termination is very suspicious and at least warrants further investigation.
The second story involves a woman who is suing her employer for allegedly demoting her while she was on approved FMLA leave to care for her newborn child. According to the woman’s lawsuit, she left for FMLA from her full-time job. During her leave, she was told that her position was being eliminated and that when she got back, she would be given a different, part-time job.
The FMLA requires employers to return workers to the same job they had before leave, or, if that isn’t possible, to a nearly identical job. This includes nearly identical pay, hours, responsibilities, skill level, etc.
Based on the above criteria, it certainly seems as though the woman’s employer violated her FMLA rights. Going from full-time to part-time work cannot be considered job protection.
These two examples seem rather straightforward, but not every case is clear-cut. If you believe your employer discriminated against you for taking FMLA leave, please discuss your concerns with an experienced employment law attorney in your area.