Georgia Employers Must Show Legitimate Reasons For Failing To Reinstate Employees

Many times employees are afraid that if they take an approved leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), they won’t get their job back when they return. A recent case out of the Ninth Circuit has just determined that if an employer doesn’t give you your job back after an FMLA approved leave, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide a legitimate reason why not.

Under the FMLA, certain employees have a right to take leave – such as workers who have a serious health condition, have to care for a family member with a serious health condition or to care for the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child. If you are entitled to leave and provide sufficient notice, if your employer fails to reinstate you, you may be able to bring a claim under the FMLA.

In Sanders v. Newport, a city employee – Diane Sanders – took an approved leave of absence due to health problems triggered by poor air quality and the city’s use of low grade billing paper at her office. After submitting fitness-for-duty certificates and requesting reinstatement, the city refused to allow Sanders to return, eventually firing her permanently.

At trial the judge told the jury to decide whether Sanders had proved that the city fired her without “reasonable cause.” But, the appeals court said this instruction unfairly required Sanders to show her firing was not justified. Instead, it should be up to the city to show that it had legitimate reasons to fire her.

The FMLA is very complicated – if you have any questions concerning your right to take leave, or are getting ready to return to work from leave, please contact the experienced Georgia employment lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP. We have years of experience helping employees with the FMLA and ensuring their rights are protected.