Federal Court Highlights Job Reinstatement Obligations After FMLA Leave

May 28, 2019

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has allowed an employee's Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) retaliatory transfer claim to proceed. The court found that the employer’s explanation for eliminating the plaintiff’s position while she was on leave, the timing of the decision, and remarks made during the employee’s FMLA absence raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the employee;s transfer was in retaliation for her exercise of FMLA rights. The FMLA contains reinstatement obligations on employers following the conclusion of FMLA leave. This decision highlights the importance of considering reinstatement obligations and the perils of not reinstating an employee returning from FMLA leave to a position with similar responsibilities. The decision also emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing the elimination of a position when the employee who generally fills that position is on FMLA leave to ensure the elimination of that position is not merely a pretext for retaliation. We recommend all employers have SESCO review their Employee Handbook on annual basis to ensure compliance with all federal and state laws.