Employees should be aware of retaliation for FMLA leave

Most Indiana workers are likely familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which grants employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. Employees who are approved for FMLA leave have job protection, and it is illegal for employers to fire them for taking FMLA leave.

Nonetheless, a recent case brought up the question of whether an employer was actually retaliating against an employee for taking approved FMLA leave or if the employer fired the worker for misusing his medical leave to take a vacation. The employer approved the worker for a 30-day medical leave that was not under FMLA since the worker had already exhausted the 12 weeks FMLA permits when he underwent shoulder surgery. While the employee was on non-FMLA medical leave, the employer found photos posted on a social media account of the employee that seemed to show him on multiple vacations.

The employee was terminated a few days after returning to work. He sued his employer for retaliation for having used his FMLA rights. A U.S. District Court ruled against the employee because the first day of FMLA leave and the date of termination were too far apart from one another for retaliation to be a likely possibility. However, an appellate court disagreed with the district court in its evaluation of the dates and decided that the measure of time should be between the last day of FMLA leave and the date of termination, so they sent the case back to a lower court for a trial and deliberation.

In situations involving FMLA leave, employees are sometimes vulnerable to retaliation from their employers for taking the job-protected time off. When workers find themselves at the mercy of retaliatory employers, they might find that discussing the issue with a lawyer is a good way to get answers to their questions and help with legal proceedings.

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