Returning from leave under FMLA: What are the job protections?

| May 28, 2020 | Employment Law

Kentucky workers who use the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will understandably expect that their job will still be available when they have completed their time off and are ready to get back on the job. However, there are times when the employer tries to penalize a worker who has legally used FMLA. Perhaps the employer was displeased about the worker taking time off and is seeking to retaliate. There might be a desire to pay the worker less than he or she made before. Benefits could be at issue. Or the employment terms may be in question.

For workers who have used FMLA, it is important to understand all the available protections when returning – including job restoration. The worker returning from FMLA leave must be given the same job as he or she had before. If that is not available, then an equivalent job must be provided. An important note with FMLA is that there is no guarantee that the worker will get the exact same job if it is no longer available. Still, the equivalent job must have the same financial compensation, benefits and basics of employment such as the location and shift.

In addition, the employee should receive the same benefits such as overtime, a shift differential, pay raises that came about while on leave and more. Workers who were supposed to receive wage increases based on length of time on the job and work done must get those increases. If the worker had benefits due before leaving for FMLA, they too must be restored upon returning to work.

It is important to note that there are limits to protections granted by FMLA. Layoffs are an important concern given the national circumstances. If there are layoffs while the employee is using FMLA leave, the employer can show that the employee was going to be laid off and can execute the layoff once the worker is ready to return to work. Workers categorized as “key” employees may also be denied restoration. Their status, salary and distance of all employees will determine if they fall into this category.

In Louisville and throughout Kentucky, workers who choose to take FMLA leave should remember their rights to restoration when they are ready to get back to the job. Understanding the law for FMLA can be complicated. Those who believe they were subjected to violations should contact a law firm experienced in FMLA and other aspects of employment law to decide whether to file a lawsuit.