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3 ways employers retaliate against workers who need FMLA leave

Under federal law, companies with at least 50 employees generally have to comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law gives employees who have worked for the company for a minimum amount of time the right to take an unpaid leave of absence.

Personal medical reasons and support for immediate family members can qualify someone for FMLA leave. Workers should be able to come back and resume their job at the end of their leave without any complications.

Unfortunately, some employers will retaliate against those who take a necessary leave of absence from work. Being able to recognize the different forms of FMLA retaliation can help protect workers dealing with employer misconduct.

They demote a worker when they return to work

Your employer may need to find someone to temporarily cover your job responsibilities. They may have to transfer someone from another department or even bring on a temporary worker in some cases. That employee should go back to their original position when you can get back on the job. Your employer should not demote you or transfer you to a different shift or department just because you took a leave of absence. 

They find excuses to fire someone when they come back to work

Your employer should maintain consistent expectations for you and other employees that focus on your performance and history with the company, not your need for medical leave or family circumstances.

Employers may suddenly start to take issue with workers who require a leave of absence. Suddenly having a lot of write-ups when you return to work could be a warning sign of an impending termination. The same is true of poor performance reviews or changes in the company policy about the enforcement of certain rules.

They cut someone’s hours or find a way to reduce their pay

Companies are sometimes more subtle in how they try to push a worker out after a leave of absence. They could slightly reduce how many hours you receive, give you a worse schedule, or even reduce the sales leads and employment support that they offer you.

You should not have to adjust to a loss in income after unpaid FMLA leave. Employers that try to downgrade you from a full-time position to a part-time position because you took a leave of absence violate your rights by doing so.

When you notice warning signs of retaliation, you are in a position to document that behavior so that you can fight back if your employer continues to violate your FMLA employment rights.