CanI sue for being demoted after returning from medical leave?

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CanI sue for being demoted after returning from medical leave?

My wife just returned to her job after 6 weeks off for a hysterectomy. She was a Customer Service Manager. She went through the proper channels for medical leave. She just went back and was told that she was no longer a CSM and that she would have to change departments and haul freight. She did just that her first day back and worked and lifted way more than she was supposed to, so much so that she can’t walk the day after. She is now being forced into quitting because she can’t do the hard labor.

Asked on August 17, 2011 Missouri

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It depends on the circumstances.  If there was a legitimate "neutral" reason for the reassignment, then she could potentially be reassigned notwithstanding her leave...for example, if the CS department was downsized, restructured, moved to a different corporate location, etc., then they would not need to "articially" create a job they no longer have at her location for her to return to. In that case, if she could not do the new job, it might be legitimate to terminate her--it would still be worthwhile for her to discuss the matter in depth with an employment law attorney, but one could imagine situations where it was legal.

On the other hand, if the "real" reason for the transfer was to punish or retailiate against her for being on medical leave, that is most likely improper and would give rise to a legal cause of action. So the critical fact will be whether there is--and the company can substantiate--some valid reason for their action which is wholly separate and distinct from her medical leave. If there isn't, she may be able to sue for compensation and/or reinstatement, and should definitely meet with an employment law attorney. Good luck.


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