When Taking Medical Leave is a Career Killer
How to tell if you’ve been a victim of FMLA retaliation
Imagine that you return to work after medical leave only to find that your
job isn’t what it used to be.
Imagine if key decisions were made during your absence that had a negative
impact on your job. For example, maybe your key accounts were passed on
to someone else, leaving you with less opportunity for commission. Or,
perhaps you were given an undesirable shift, job assignment, or were transferred
to an inconvenient location.
Imagine if you were called into a supervisor’s office, only to find
that you were being placed on probationary status, or, worse yet, that
you were being let go, even though you had a stellar performance record.
Depending on the circumstances, some of these scenarios could be indicative
of unlawful retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Let’s discuss what the law says about retaliation, and what you
should do if you believe that it has happened to you.
What is retaliation under the FMLA?
The FMLA protects employees from being discharged or discriminated against
for exercising their rights to take medical leave to get medical care
for themselves, or to care for a family member.
How do you know if you’ve been a victim of FMLA retaliation? According
to the Department of Labor, some of the most common examples of prohibited
behavior include an employer or a supervisor who:
- refuses to authorize FMLA leave for an eligible employee
- discourages an employee from using his or her FMLA leave
- manipulates an employee’s work hours so the company can avoid responsibilities
under the FMLA
- cites an employee’s FMLA request as a negative factor in a performance
review or some other decision regarding employment
- subjects an employee to hostile actions pertaining to workplace hiring,
training, promotions, or dynamics, or
- counts FMLA leave as part of a “no-fault” attendance policy
(Note: No-fault attendance are generally based on a point system. After
an employee exceeds a certain number of “points” – or
absences – per year, he or she may be subject to disciplinary action,
or even termination).
What does FMLA retaliation look like?
FMLA retaliation can occur at any point after your employer has become
aware that you are requesting leave under the FMLA. Retaliation may occur
before or after your leave period.
The most obvious form of retaliation is termination. Here are some other
- An employee may be subject to a hostile work atmosphere in the weeks leading
up to a leave
- A supervisor might inexplicably increase an employee’s workload,
rendering it impossible to complete the number of assignments prior to
when the leave is set to begin
- An employer may pressure an employee (via phone or email) to take on work
while he or she is in on leave
- A returning worker may be “penalized” for taking leave by being
moved to an undesirable position or work location, having his or her schedule
modified to one that is less desirable, being denied opportunities for
advancement, or any other adverse action that has a negative impact on
the terms and conditions of the worker’s job.
What you should do
If you believe you’ve retaliated against for exercising your rights
under the FMLA, it’s a good idea to speak to an experienced employment
In addition, it’s also a good idea to do the following:
- Make notes of dates, times, and conversations pertaining to your FMLA leave,
even if those conversations happened in the past. Recall everything you
can to the best of your ability, before you forget details. Notes such
as these can sometimes be used to build a court case, or even as evidence.
- Keep all paperwork, voicemails, emails, and any other information that
is related to your request.
- Keep an ongoing record of performance reviews, and any other positive feedback
a supervisor has provided throughout your employment. Any positive feedback
you have collected from company management will support the fact that
you were – or are – a good employee and help refute any negative
actions that the company may have taken against you.
Contact us for a consultation now
If you feel that you have been discriminated against after requesting FMLA,
it’s important to find out what your rights are.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.