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Minor changes to working conditions don’t violate the FMLA

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

While employees are off work on FMLA leave, things may change at the office. Work space may be realigned and reassigned, for example. But employers are obligated to return FMLA leave-takers to the same or an equivalent position after the leave expires. Does that mean the employee must get the same desk, office or location?
    Not necessarily, as the following case shows.
    Recent case: Monica Devine underwent fertility treatment and became pregnant with twins. She took FMLA leave from her job as an insurance agent for Prudential, where she had a small office space in a room that doubled as the break room.
    Devine claimed that when she returned to work, she discovered that her files and belongings had been relegated to the basement. She quit and sued, alleging the change in her office was a denial of her right to return to the same or an equivalent position.
    No dice, concluded the trial court. Rearrangement of office furniture and files is not the sort of thing the FMLA meant to cover. At best, the changes were minimal.
    It dismissed the case. (Devine v. Prudential Insurance, No. 03-3971, DC NJ, 2007) 

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