We recently wrote about the protected status employees have when they use their time off guaranteed by the Family Medical Leave Act. This status says that, once the FMLA leave is up, the employee must be returned to the same, or a similar, position that they held prior to the FMLA leave. In the absence of this rule, employers could take advantage of the employee, bringing in someone to fill in while they are on leave; and then, once they return, essentially "demote" the original employee.
Such a tactic is illegal, as FMLA leave is a protected right of employees. The following story combines this element with the notion of retaliation, after a Texas woman who worked at the College of the Mainland was fired after taking FMLA leave.
Before she took her leave, though, she reported a theft on school grounds (materials were apparently taken from a storage unit). After that, she took leave; and when she returned to school, she was fired. She sued the school a few months back, and the College of the Mainland denies that they have committed any wrongdoing in this incident.
It is important to remember that retaliation is not only reserved for incidents that involve a possibly wrongful termination. An employee can be retaliated against for blowing the whistle, or for taking a moral stand against something he or she deems is not right in the workplace. If an employer takes disciplinary or negative action against such an employee, such a move can be deemed retaliatory and open the employer up to litigation.
Source: Galveston Bureau, "COM denies it terminated woman for reporting alleged theft," John Suayan, May 29, 2013