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Employers cannot use FMLA applications to justify discrimination

The Family Medical Leave Act was passed to help protect employees who need to take time off to care for a loved one or seek medical treatment themselves. Employees have a right to keep their job when they take advantage of leave under FMLA and are protected from discrimination after they return.

FMLA discrimination often takes the form of reduced job duties for someone who has taken leave. Employers may also violate the law by denying promotions or docking pay.

We've previously covered issues of government employees facing discrimination at work. It's surprising that even our public servants must undergo litigation to protect their rights, but it happens all the time. Another example has made the news this week when an employee of the Capitol Police force filed a suit over FMLA violations and discrimination.

The woman's complaint alleges after she was approved for FMLA leave, her supervisors began to question her fitness to perform her job duties. When her regular schedule was changed, she was not allowed time off to see a doctor. She says she was deprived of previously scheduled overtime and was switched from active police duty to administrative duty while the department investigated her. All of this allegedly occurred without any other activity aside from the FMLA application suggesting that she was not fit for her job.

She eventually underwent a rigorous psychological evaluation including 900 written questions and a lengthy interview with a therapist. The evaluation led department officials to determine that she was perfectly fit to work and they reinstated her to her normal duties.

If these allegations are all true, then the conduct by the police department strongly suggests unlawful FMLA discrimination.

Source: The Hill, "Officer Sues Capitol Police for challenging her fitness," Debbie Seigelbaum, April 30, 2012.

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