Many if not most employees in the Twin Cities area work for employers who must follow the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.
The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take time off work, up to several weeks, without having to worry about termination or other retaliation from their employers. Employees on FMLA leave should have a job available for them when they get back from their leave.
Employees and employers alike should be aware that Minnesota law may give employees additional rights concerning leave.
Employers who violate the federal FMLA may face legal consequences. Employees who are targets of an FMLA violation may be able to recover back pay and other compensation from their employers.
An employee who gets fired or laid off while on FMLA leave, or, for that matter, right before or just after they take an FMLA leave, has every right to be suspicious.
A sudden termination right around the time of an employee’s qualified FMLA leave could be a sign of unlawful discrimination.
Employers will need to document their reasons for terminating employees
For their part, Minnesota employers should think twice before firing someone around the time that employee took FMLA leave. At best, it makes for bad optics. At worst, a court or agency could conclude the termination is in violation of the law.
With that being said, employers can still discipline and even terminate employees if they are currently on FMLA leave. The employer must have a non-discriminatory and legal reason for doing so.
This is one reason why consistent and complete employment documentation is so important. For example, if after firing a worker, an employer can clearly document how that worker violated a workplace rule, that worker may have limited recourse.
On the other hand, an employee who, without explanation, loses their job right after taking FMLA, they may have been the victim of unlawful discrimination. In that case, they should evaluate their legal options.