FMLA compliance is not just similar pay

It’s not good enough to reinstate an employee in a job with similar pay and benefits after he’s taken FMLA leave. If you can’t place the person back in his old position, you’ve got to find a job that matches it in every way. That requirement may sound onerous, but it’s FMLA laws as they are, and a federal court in Illinois has just issued a reminder.

A Menial Replacement Job Is Not FMLA Compliance

The court said an employee’s lawsuit against his employer for failing to properly reinstate him after his FMLA medical leave had merit. The court allowed the suit to go to trial, instead of throwing it out as the employer had sought.

The issue: The employer claimed the employee’s old job was eliminated while he was on FMLA medical leave. So on his return, he was placed in a job that paid the same wage, but was more menial in nature.

The company thought that was good enough, but the court said, “No.”

The requirement in FMLA laws is that a post- FMLA job be “equivalent” to the pre-leave job means not only that the pay and benefits must be the same, but also that the duties and responsibilities of the new job be very much like the old.

Note: If an employee’s job is legitimately eliminated while they are on FMLA leave, for reasons unrelated to the leave, you’re under no obligation to reinstate him or her in any job under FMLA law. But in this case, the court found that the “elimination” was phony.

Cite: Breneisen v. Motorola, No. 05-2032, 7th Cir., 1/15/08.

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