Employers are usually obligated to reinstate an employee following a maternity leave. The employee has the legal right to be returned to the position she held prior to the maternity leave, and if that position no longer exists after the leave, to a “comparable” position.
The “comparable” position must be comparable in all respects – location, hours of work, quality of work, degree of responsibility, job security, prestige, and so forth.
If the employer can prove that the person on maternity leave would have been terminated regardless of the leave, the employer might be able to avoid the consequences of breaching this obligation. However, the company has the onus of proving its case.
If a company does breach its obligation after maternity leave, the employee can claim lost wages, associated expenses, emotional pain and suffering, and even damages for the “loss of reasonable expectation of continued employment” – this could amount to an extra month’s pay per year of service.
Moreover, if the failure to return to work is found to be a punishment or “reprisal” for taking the maternity leave, then there could be additional damages against the company.
This topic is without a doubt, one of the most misunderstood and contentious issues in employment law. To learn more about your options, contact an employment lawyer who can explain and advise on which steps should be taken to your benefit.
Author: Daniel Chodos, Whitten & Lublin