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Appeals court reinstates FMLA interference, retaliation case

If you go to the Department of Labor’s Milwaukee office and ask, you’ll find that when an employee returns from leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, “he or she must be restored to the same job or to an ‘equivalent job’.”

That provision of the law is at the center of a FMLA interference and retaliation case filed by a former employee of a furniture rental outlet.

The former customer service representative says her hours were reduced as soon as she returned from FMLA leave. She injured her back while not at work and took a leave of two weeks to deal with the pain. Upon her return, her hours were reduced by her manager from 40 to 32 hours per week.

After complaining to a supervisor about her reduced hours, she was returned to a 40-hour week. However, she was fired a few months later for “inappropriate conduct/behavior” in a difficult relationship with a new manager.

She and her employment law attorney filed a lawsuit in in U.S. District Court in which she charged that she was fired for her disability and in retaliation for exercising rights under both the FMLA and Americans with Disabilities Act.

Though the court granted her former employer’s request for summary judgment, a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel reinstated her FMLA case. The appeals court did affirm dismissal of the ADA portion of her lawsuit.

The appeals court wrote in its ruling that the district court “misconstrued (her) FMLA retaliation claim as being premised on only her termination when it was based instead on her reduction in hours after her return from FMLA leave.” The court cited the FMLA provision that requires employers to return workers to the same job or equivalent job upon their return.

If your rights under the FMLA or ADA have been denied, contact a lawyer experienced in employment law litigation.

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