Position eliminated upon return from maternity leave for 2 employees. Is this FMLA violation?

Asked over 1 year ago - Saint Louis, MO

I worked at my company for 15 years with no problems. Due to reorganization, I was told my position was eliminated upon me calling my employer to coordinate a return date. A woman in an equivalent position to mine at another location did NOT lose her job. Additionally someone in another department who was returning from maternity leave had the same thing happen not long after me - upon her call to coordinate a return date, she was told her position was eliminated but no one else in her department lost their positions. Both of us worked at the same location and we believe we were discriminated against for utilizing our FMLA benefits. How would we prove discrimination? Seems the "reorganization" story is really convenient for our employer to avoid FMLA violation claims. Do we have a case?

Additional information

Also, neither of us was offered another position. One week later I was informed that a position equivalent to mine was open at another location. HR should have known about this opening at the time they told me I no longer had a job but this position was not offered to me. Further, the VP at the company who I thought I had a great relationship with (who authorized both of us being let go) now refuses to allow either of us to use him as a reference for future job searches.

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Eric Michael Walter

    Contributor Level 7

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . With most discrimination cases, the employee does not have a "smoking gun", clear evidence that the protected classification (in this case, a person exercising her rights under FMLA and/or a woman (pregnancy)) was a motivating factor for the employer's actions. It would be important for you to act quickly to protect your rights (you mentioned that this happened to another woman not long after it happened to you). Discrimination claims have fairly short time frames to file the administrative complaint with the appropriate agency.

    I would be happy to schedule a meeting with you to discuss your potential claims.

    Mr. Walter's answers are not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and are based on only the limited... more
  2. Jonathan D. McDowell

    Contributor Level 10

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . This seems like a clear violation of the FMLA (family medical leave act). Under the statute, a person on leave must be put in the same or equivalent position upon return from leave that they held when they left for leave. Failure to do so is prima facie evidence of a violation.

    Missouri has very favorable employment laws and it might be wiser to pursue this claim under the Missouri Human Rights Act for sex discrimination due to pregnancy. You need to contact the Missouri Human Rights Commission immediately to file your charge before the expiration of 180 days from the date the discrimination occurred. Add to the fact that another person in a similar situation was treated the same, and you have a pretty good discrimination claim.

    As a side note, I would not recommend filing a charge without the help of an employment attorney. You can ruin your case early on by filing a deficient charge.

    Contact an employment attorney as soon as you can.

    Hope this helps,

    Jonathan

  3. Adam Kielich

    Contributor Level 18

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . It's definitely suspect. You can file a claim with the U.S. DOL and possibly your state DOL if Missouri has an analogous law to FMLA. It would not be a bad idea to speak with a local employment lawyer.

  4. Richard D Carter

    Contributor Level 5

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . It appears you have a claim for employment discrimination. You were a member of a protected class (woman and pregnant), you suffered an adverse employment action and they do not seem to have a justifiable reason for this. I would contact your local human rights office or the EEOC who will conduct a free investigation and if the facts warrant it sue your employer. You should also contact a reputable employment lawyer.

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