Many Pennsylvania workers are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law that provides certain unpaid leave when an employee or family member has a health-related problem. Most employers freely comply with leave requests, but others do not, and in November, an Ohio federal court heard a case involving an employee who was retaliated against for attempting to exercise his rights under the law.
In the lawsuit, the employee stated that he had always received excellent performance evaluations for his work as a manager. However, his professional relationship with his supervisor turned negative after he reported a safety concern, which was never addressed. He claimed that his supervisor threatened to fire him if he reported any related accidents. Two days after he requested medical leave, he was reportedly furloughed after the company stated that it did not win a contract that he was supposed to work on.
The company made several errors in this case. For example, no documentation was given to show that the company needed to furlough the employee due to a need to have the position eliminated. Additionally, a sudden change in the performance evaluations following the report of a safety concern can also raise suspicions.
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employees are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical reasons or to care for their families. If the employer refuses to grant medical leave or the employer retaliates in some fashion, such as a termination or demotion, than the aggrieved employee may want to meet with an attorney. This type of action is prohibited by federal law, and filing a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor could possibly bring some redress.
Source: HR Dive, "Court: Employee proves his solo 'furlough' was retaliation under FMLA", Valerie Bolden-Barrett, Dec. 12, 2016