Potentially, yes, the termination could have been illegal.
Last year, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act afforded workers with young children (who required supervision at home due to Covid-19 related school closure) the ability to take legally protected paid leave time. The leave time was called “expanded family medical leave” and it could last as long as 10 weeks so long as the worker, for 10 weeks, had a bona fide need to stay home to care for children. Expanded family medical leave worked much like leave time under the Family Medical Leave Act. Importantly, just as with FMLA leave, employers were generally required to reinstate employees to their former positions immediately after their expanded family medical leave period expired. In other words, employers could not, without legal consequence, simply decide to replace an employee who took advantage of expanded family leave time in favor of hiring and retaining an employee who would not need to leave work in order to be at home to care for children.
Employees who have been terminated and replaced due to their expanded family medical leave taking activity have may be able to bring a lawsuit against their former employer, to recover lost income and their attorney’s fees.
If you have been terminated, after taking either FMLA leave or expanded family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, contact our NH employment law attorneys at 1-800-240-1988 or fill out our online contact form for a free consultation.