Many workers are eligible to take job-protected leave in a number of circumstances. This is because the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guarantees eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for certain reasons, without the threat of job loss.

If you have recently taken FMLA leave but have been demoted, fired or otherwise negatively treated by your employer, you may have reason to believe that they have retaliated against you. This may be the case, and you may also be able to take legal action to claim damages as a result. Before doing so, however, you should consider the following.

Were you eligible for FMLA leave?

Not all employees are entitled to FMLA leave. You must first have engaged in 12 months of employment at your current job. These do not need to be consecutive, but there should not have been a break in employment of seven years or more. You should also have completed at least 1250 hours of work in the last 12 months with your employer.

Even if you meet these requirements, you must also ensure that your employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of where you work. If they do not, you, unfortunately, are not entitled to FMLA leave.

You should also have a valid reason for taking FMLA leave. Preparing for the birth of a child, caring for a close family member or dealing with a personal health issue are the most common reasons.

Can you show that the negative action was connected to your FMLA leave?

If you were fired, demoted or had any type of negative action taken against you during or after your FMLA leave, you may believe that you have been retaliated against. To make a legal claim, you should be able to show that there was a connection. For example, if you were fired shortly after taking FMLA leave to give birth, you should be able to show that your employer fired you because of your pregnancy.

It’s important that you take action within a reasonable time frame if you believe that you have been retaliated against as a result of taking FMLA leave. By doing so, you may be able to gain back financial damages.