An employee can only recover for a violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act if they actually suffered harm, according to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In Hickey v. Protective Life Corp., an account executive was told that, after his return from extended FMLA leave, he would be reassigned to a territory closer to his home, that he would no longer service certain accounts, that he would need to build up his book of business, and that his commissions would be guaranteed for six months. He was terminated shortly after his return to work for reasons unrelated to his FMLA leave. He then sued, alleging that he was not reinstated to his former or an equivalent position as required by the FMLA.

As the Seventh Circuit noted, under the FMLA, an employer that interferes with an employee’s FMLA rights “shall be liable to any eligible employee affected … for damages equal to … the amount of … any wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation denied or lost to such employee by reason of the violation.” (Emphasis in original). It also provides for other actual monetary damages, such as providing care, and equitable relief. In this case, however, the employee suffered no loss of wage or benefits prior to his termination. Thus, the Seventh Circuit found no basis for monetary or equitable relief, resulting in the dismissal of his claim.