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FMLA: can you sue an employer for not rehiring you?

Life can be quite unpredictable. A spouse can be fine one day and be hit with a tragic illness the next. New additions to the family are not always expected. You can never know what’s around the next corner, but you’ve got to step up and meet the challenges life throws at you. Sometimes that might mean taking time off work under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Employers should be understanding and supportive of these life changes, but many only think of the bottom line and what the temporary loss of an employee will cost them. Some grant the leave, but then retaliate against the employee for exercising his or her rights.

Consider the case of an Arkansas man who worked as a welder in the town’s wastewater department. Because of gallbladder and pancreas issues, he was forced to have surgery. He used his sick time and the FMLA to take the time off for his recovery. He was subsequently laid off when he failed to return at the conclusion of his approved sick leave. When the doctor cleared him to come back to work, his former employer refused to rehire him. Despite being a highly regarded worker, his employer posted his job and hired a new employee with less experience on the department’s machinery.

He filed multiple claims against the employer and, after a trial and subsequent appeals by both the city and the worker, he was awarded $25,000 in damages for emotional distress and $56,000 in lost wages.

Though this was out of state, Pennsylvania workers have the same rights to take leave for a personal illness, paternity or maternity leave, an adoption or any qualified familial reason. If you feel you’ve unfairly been denied leave, a Pennsylvania attorney may be able to help you get justice.

Source: bna.com, “City Welder Not Rehired After FMLA Leave Entitled to Liquidated Damages, Court Rules,” May 14, 2014

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