Long-term employees often move through a series of jobs with their employers. Sometimes, that means they are assigned to positions below their experience, education and interest levels.
For determining reinstatement rights under the , it’s the job the employee was in at the time she began her that counts. As long as the job she returns to is substantially equivalent, it does not matter that the job may be below her capacities and educational background.
Recent case: Shortly before starting FMLA leave, Theresa Vlahos worked as a nurse practitioner and associate director of a department at a medical facility. However, the department was undergoing changes, and Vlahos had just been transferred to a research position when her leave began.
When she returned, her employer assigned Vlahos to another research position with duties, pay and responsibilities similar to the job she had been transferred to. She sued, alleging she was entitled to a job similar to the more responsible associate director position.
The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. It said the position that counted was the one held at the time her leave started. The court said that “maintaining an individual’s employment in a position best suited to her education is not the purpose of the FMLA.” (Vlahos v. Xippolitos, et al., No. 06-5411, 2nd Cir., 2008)
Final note: Remember, the FMLA doesn’t give employees more rights than those who don’t take leave. They are entitled to reinstatement to an equivalent job, no more and no less.
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