Employer sued after confusing FMLA leave and maternity leave

Indiana workers who are entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act as well as maternity leave should be aware of their rights. In a New York case, a woman was fired for allegedly failing to return to work after finishing her maternity leave. However, it appears that the employer considered both leaves to run concurrently, meaning the employee was using both her FMLA leave and maternity leave at the same time.

When the employee initially scheduled her time off for maternity leave, she sent an email to her employer that was titled "Maternity leave", indicating the type of leave she was taking. She also requested the ability to use her accrued vacation leave. The employer did approve the leave and failed to provide FMLA eligibility and designation notices.

The HR manager told the federal court that she assumed the two leaves would run concurrently based on her prior experiences. A vice president, the HR manager's boss, said that she believed that the two leaves would run consecutively. Allegations were also made that the employee was informed that she would have to return to work after her maternity leave was completed, but the employee said that the employer failed to clarify the situation when she asked.

In some cases, FMLA leave and maternity leave can run concurrently. While many employers choose to do this because it reduces the amount of time an employee is not working, it is important that they properly communicate this to employees. If an employee is fired after being led to believe that FMLA leave and maternity leave runs consecutively and not concurrently, an attorney could file a lawsuit against the employer on behalf of the client.

Source: HR Dive, "Confusion between 'FMLA' and 'maternity leave' sends employer to trial", Kate Tornone, Aug. 11, 2017

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