The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) generally entitles an eligible employee returning from approved leave to be reinstated to his or her old job or an equivalent job.  In a decision that sheds some light on the scope of an employer’s duty under that requirement, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the mere fact that there were slight differences between the plaintiff’s old job and the position he was offered upon return to work did not mean the job was not an equivalent one.

In Waag v. Sotera Defense Solutions, No. 15-2521 (4th Cir. May 16, 2017), an employee returning from FMLA leave was given a different job from the one that he had prior to his leave.  Although the new job had the same pay, benefits, and responsibilities, and was located at the same worksite, the plaintiff claimed that it was not equivalent.

In rejecting the plaintiff’s claim that his employer had unlawfully interfered with his FMLA rights, the appeals court found that although there were some differences between his old and new jobs, they were nonetheless equivalent because the differences were minor.  The court also made clear that the employer does not have to reemploy an individual returning from leave to his or her old job as long as the as new job is equivalent.

A copy of the Fourth Circuit’s decision in Waag is available here.

Members of the Equal Employment Advisory Council (EEAC) can read more here.