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When employee returns from FMLA leave, ensure position is truly equivalent to former job

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Maternity Leave Laws,Performance Reviews

Employees who return from FMLA-covered maternity leave are supposed to come back to the same or a substantially equivalent position. Don’t make the mistake of offering a position that has the same title and pay, but which involves very different duties.

That’s especially true if those duties are more onerous for a new mother, as happened in the following case.

Recent case:
Nicole Myers worked as a district manager for Mothers Work, a manufacturer and retailer of maternity clothes. Then she announced her pregnancy. According to Myers, things started going downhill at work soon after. She received negative performance reviews and was suspended without pay for several weeks. Finally, Myers gave birth and went on FMLA leave.

When she was ready to come back, Mothers Work informed her she wouldn’t get the same district to manage. Instead, she was offered the same title, but in a different district. The practical effect was that she would have to travel farther than she had to before she became pregnant and had her baby. She refused to take the assignment.

She then sued, alleging that she should have been reinstated to a truly equivalent position.

Mothers Work tried to argue that the jobs were equivalent. The court didn’t buy it and ordered a jury trial. (Myers v. Mothers Work, No. H-07-0409, SD TX, 2009)

Final note: Consider settling cases like this, which generate terrible publicity.

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