In March 2015 I returned to work after 5 months or so of FMLA
. I had worked for this company for 27 years (28 in May 2015) and had always been a highly rated employee. I had achieved a range 15 which is the first level of executive management. It allowed me things like higher pay, larger bonuses, company paid annual physical (very extensive), and restricted stock.
My FMLA came about after a divorce I went through in April 2013. That is when it was final. I had been going through it since the fall of 2012. I was devastated by the divorce. She filed for divorce while I wanted to keep trying to make things work. I was, and still am, in love with my ex-wife. Anyway, as time went on I became more and more depressed and ended up in the hospital psych ward under suicide watch. It took me months to get the right medication to get me out of my "funk". I not only had severe depression but also had anxiety attacks that sometimes kept me from being able to even leave my house. Once we found the right medication that would work for me I quickly came back to myself and was ready to return to work.
Before returning, my boss contacted me and asked if we could meet for lunch outside of the office. To be honest I appreciated this because it was going to be somewhat awkward for me to return to work after such a long leave. Nobody knew what I had been through and I'm sure there were all kinds of rumors going around. What he told me during that lunch was very humbling. I was told that my position had been permanently replaced by someone else. I was then told that he tried finding me a similar level position in other departments but nothing materialized. He then proceeded to tell me that they had created a new position for me in the same department. The job sounded good and I was appreciative for the chance to prove myself again. Then he told me that the job was two grades lower than the one I had left. My base pay was not impacted but I would not receive any raises because my salary, having been at a grade 15 before, was already above the highest salary for a grade 13 (my new grade). Not only would I not get raises, my bonus would be significantly less, and I would not receive any restricted stock any more. I also would not be eligible for the annual company paid executive physical. Needless to say this cost me a lot of potential earnings. I was then told that I would not have an office, which I had had for the last 18 years. I would be out with everyone else in a small cube on the floor. As you can imagine, this was very humiliating after having been such a highly thought of employee in a management position. My new job was not management. I had nobody reporting to me.
At the time I did not know much about FMLA. I was just happy that the company allowed me to be off for the length of time I needed in order to get myself mentally together again. Recently I heard something and began reading more about FMLA. I believe I read that the company had an obligation to either give me my old job back or give me one of equal responsibility, pay, benefits, and earning potential. Obviously the job they put me in was not equal since it was two grades below where I was. I was stuck having to work my way back up to where I had already been. It would take years to accomplish just moving up two grades to get to where I had been. I recently decided to retire and much of that decision was caused by my disappointed and frustration with the thought of having to work back up the ladder when I should never have been "demoted" in the first place. After my return I again received a very high rating just like I had for all those years. I had proved to myself and to the company that I was still very capable and could was still a very valuable employee.
As I thought about it more I just didn't have it in me to work my way back up the ranks knowing that I had already done it once. I should have come back as a 15 and should be on my way to even higher positions. Because of my frustration with how things went down I decided to give up and retire and move on to a second career as a certified financial planner. It would have been much easier if I had just received a job of the same level when I returned from my FMLA so I could stay with this company and retire in a few more years.
Do I have a case against my company for not giving me a position of equal level when I returned from my FMLA?
Thanks for your opinions.