When you take leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act, it’s safe to assume you’re already under some stress. It can be good stress, like taking time off to be with a new baby. Or it can be difficult, emotional distress as when you’re taking time off to care for a terminally-ill loved one.
Whatever stresses you’re under, the last thing you need to do is worry about your employer retaliating against you for taking time off.
If you’ve been experiencing any of the following forms of workplace retaliation, know that you don’t have to endure it alone. An employment attorney can identify whether your employer has complied with the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act and pursue your claim if the employer has violated your rights.
What Protections Are You Entitled to Under The Family & Medical Leave Act?
The Family & Medical Leave Act is very specific about who is covered by the Act and the leave benefits available to covered employees. But many people don’t realize that it’s not an “all or nothing” situation. You do not have to take the full 12 weeks all at one time and you can work while taking leave only as needed under the circumstances.
You can use leave only as needed (referred to as “intermittent” leave) and continue to work. This is one of the areas where we see the most retaliation because our clients are working part-time and on leave at the same time and it is harder to identify what may start out as subtle changes in the work environment but develops into retaliatory events and actions.
In these situations, retaliation can often look like this:
- You are assigned full-time employment on a part-time schedule. When you can’t complete the unreasonably heavy workload, you are fired.
- You are told you can’t do your job part-time and are demoted to a position that is not the equivalent of your former position.
- You are told that part-time work means a part-time salary and your salary is decreased.
Retaliation can also occur after you return from full-time leave. The Family & Medical Leave Act stipulates that upon your return you must be restored to your position or an equivalent position. There is no guarantee your exact position will be open, in your same spot, in your same department.
Employers do have leeway when it comes to filling in the work gaps while you are out. However, you may have a claim for retaliation if you return to work and have found that you:
- Have been demoted.
- Are given less pay because of a new position.
- Lose seniority and must start at the beginning again.
- Are no longer eligible for a promotion that you are qualified for.
- Are being kept off of prestigious accounts or additional responsibilities because of your leave.
- Have been diverted to “mommy” track.
- Are now required to do things in your new position that you were not before such as lift over 50 pounds or work in a position where you are on your feet all day.
What to Do Next
If you’ve experienced any of these situations, or similar ones, you may be a victim of workplace retaliation for taking leave under the FMLA.
The first thing you need to do is document the details of the actions you believe constitute retaliation and those involved with them. Collect communications about your demotion or negative employment action.
Then, contact a Family & Medical Leave Act attorney.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we can evaluate your personal circumstances to determine whether your employer has violated the provisions of the FMLA and then take the steps to protect your rights.