Syneos Health, LLC has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit filed by an employee who claims she was unlawfully passed over for a promotion after taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The plaintiff claims Syneos has a policy in place under which the company will deny a promotion to any employee who takes FMLA leave during the year the promotion is made available, regardless of his or her qualifications.
The plaintiff, who currently works for Syneos as a clinical operations lead, says she took FMLA leave from April 1 to May 28, 2019 for the birth of her child. According to the case, the woman discovered in August of that year that a male coworker who had not recently taken FMLA leave had been promoted to senior clinical operations lead, a position for which the plaintiff was also qualified, “if not more qualified.” The plaintiff says she was never “contacted, notified, nor considered” for the promotion.
Upon inquiring about why she was passed over for the position, the plaintiff was allegedly told by management that Syneos, as a matter of policy, does not consider for promotion any employee who has taken FMLA leave during the year or time that promotions are made available. The case claims after the plaintiff escalated the issue to the company’s human resources department, a department manager “[s]hockingly” confirmed “that it was Defendant’s policy that Plaintiff and others were not eligible for promotion within the company, if they utilized FMLA in the year the promotion was available, and/or during the time the promotion was available.”
The suit argues that based on statements from Syneos’s management, the same policy that was applied to the plaintiff is a “companywide” practice that has likely affected “thousands” of other employees. According to the case, Syneos’s policy of denying promotions to those who utilize FMLA leave violates their right to protected leave and is considered retaliatory under the law.
“The FMLA strictly prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for asserting her rights under the Act,” the complaint reads. “Further, an employer may not consider an employee's use of FMLA leave as ‘a negative factor in employment actions such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions; nor can FMLA leave be counted under no fault attendance policies.’”
The lawsuit, which was originally filed in October 2019 and has since been transferred to North Carolina district court, seeks to cover all employees who worked for Syneos “during the relevant limitations period” and were denied “promotions, pay increases, and/or suffered any adverse employment action” as a result of prior or anticipated use of protected FMLA leave.