CASE: Posting employee’s position during leave wasn’t an FMLA violation


Employer wanted the employee to return

Kayla was a teacher. Early one year, she notified her employer that she was pregnant. She had her baby in September and started her maternity leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Both she and her employer agreed that she would return to work the following January.

In early December, without informing anyone, Kayla cleaned out much of her classroom including some items that belonged to the school. The classroom was left with only a few books and posters.

Concerned that Kayla had changed her mind about returning in January, Gwen, the school’s principal, contacted her to ask if she was returning to work. When Kayla did not respond within a few hours, the school posted for her teaching position as a precautionary measure and to ensure the school would not be left without a teacher for that classroom. Gwen also heard that Kayla had applied for a daycare license, which contributed to her belief that Kayla might be abandoning her teaching position. The school intended to take the posting down if Kayla responded and informed that she was returning.

The next day, Kayla learned of the job posting and told Gwen that she had seen it, was “quite angry and upset,” and promised to “come get the rest of my things and turn in my keys sometime this week or next.”  Gwen continued to try to get Kayla to reconsider, but with no success. Kayla resigned.

Kayla also filed a claim that her FMLA rights were violated.

The court indicated that Kayla’s claim failed because she could not establish that she was denied an FMLA benefit to which she was entitled. The evidence showed that the school granted Kayla’s request for FMLA leave, and she offered no evidence that the school revoked that leave.

No evidence or law suggested that posting the position prevented Kayla from returning to work after her FMLA leave. And even if the school had filled the position previously held by Kayla, the FMLA allows an employer to reinstate an employee to “the same position . . . or to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment.”

Instead, Kayla resigned before her FMLA leave ended, despite the school’s pleas for her to return.

Key to remember: Simply posting a job during an employee’s FMLA leave does not automatically violate the FMLA. The employee is still entitled to return to the job or an equivalent one. 

Clauson v. Stride Academy, District Court of Minnesota, No. 21‐cv‐1141, October 4, 2022.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


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