Is it legal for a hospital employer to change a nurse’s night position to a lower paying day position, after she returns from maternity leave?

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Is it legal for a hospital employer to change a nurse’s night position to a lower paying day position, after she returns from maternity leave?

My wife is an employee of a hospital. She has no prior write-ups or reprimands for insubordination, or poor care performance. The reason I ask is that her manager has made the implied threat of “I hope we have a position for you after you return, their are a lot of nurses looking to move to your job”. This scares us in this economy, we have no witnesses to her saying that, as she made sure to privately say this in her office. The hours of the job she moves to will be the same, but they will change her department, and to days, and her pay rate will decrease to 5 dollars less an hour. She said, that a staff member, all ready had this problem after returning. They actually gave her a position of less hours, so the lady wasn’t eligible for the insurance plan after having a baby My wife and me are somewhat scared and wish to know if this is really legal or not. My wife doesn’t wish to transfer from her current position.

Asked on September 28, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer may not punish a woman for being pregnant, or for using authorized maternity leave (whether authorized by the employer; under FMLA or a similar state law; or through the use of the employee's accured paid time off). However, an employer may change an employee's shift, even that means a cut in pay or hours, if there are legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons, such as restructuring, a change in when coverage is needed, etc. The issue then is the reason for the threatened change--is it retaliation or not? If you and wife believe that there is no legitimate non-retaliatory reason, you should speak with an employment law attorney or contact your state equal/civil rights division.


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