Of interest to employees who earn additional income by working weekend or graveyard shifts, earlier this month, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas ruled in favor of an employer who discontinued an employee’s shift differential following FMLA leave.The case involves a nurse who was paid a shift differential of 30 percent for working weekends, contingent upon not missing more than six weekend shifts. Subsequent to agreeing to the terms, the employee exceeded the limit due in part to taking FMLA leave for a serious health condition, making her ineligible for the 30 percent differential. To make matters worse, when the nurse continued to affirm payment of the differential, the employer terminated her employment prompting her to file a lawsuit for FMLA violations.
Although under FMLA an employee returning from leave should be restored to the same position (or an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment), under these circumstances, the company did not violate FMLA law. Like the Ninth and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals and other district courts across the country before them, the court relied on 29 C.F.R. § 825.215(c) (2), which states in a nutshell that if a bonus or other payment is based on the achievement of a specified goal such as hours worked, the payment can be denied if the goal is not met due to FMLA leave.
FMLA law is fraught with misinterpretations, more often on the part of the employer – not the employee. Sometimes confusion over the law leads an employer to deny FMLA, not allowing employees to take leave for qualifying conditions. Other times an employer may not provide notice to employees regarding their rights or obligations under the law or fail to reinstate or otherwise retaliate against an employee who takes FMLA leave. If you have experienced an adverse employment action as a result of taking FMLA leave or have been wrongfully denied FMLA leave, it is important to discuss your concerns with an experienced family medical leave employment law attorney. Contact the Des Moines wrongful termination employment law offices of Stoltze & Stoltze PLC for immediate assistance at 515-244-1473.