Your sole priorities during your maternity leave should be taking care of yourself and spending time with your newborn.
So what happens if your company notifies you while you’re on vacation that they’re looking for someone to take your place or that your position has been eliminated altogether? Is this something they can do?
Laws are in place to protect pregnant women and new mothers
Federal laws are in place to guarantee that expectant mothers are given the time they need to be ready to give birth and for bonding with their babies. Women are permitted to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act in order to give birth and care for a newborn child. During this time, the employer is not permitted to fill the post or let the individual go.
According to the law, an employee who has taken an FMLA absence must be reinstated to the same or “equivalent work.” In actuality, this implies that a worker doesn’t have to be hired again into the exact same position they left. If their role changes, they must be moved into a position where they receive the same compensation, benefits, schedule, and location.
The protection isn’t entirely unlimited
There are some caveats. If an employer can demonstrate that an employee would have been terminated even if they had not been on FMLA leave at the time, then this may not be a breach of federal law. This also applies to a reduction in overtime. The employer would need to show that the availability of overtime being reduced or eliminated would have occurred regardless of whether the employee was on FMLA leave at the time.
Unfortunately, some workers continue to experience wrongful layoffs while on maternity leave despite the protections afforded under the FMLA. If this happens to you, you might have a case against your employer for discrimination. Losing your job is stressful at any time, but even more so if you have a young child to take care of. To ensure that you are aware of your rights, you may choose to get legal help.