Question:

Are we required to restore employees returning to work after a furlough to their original positions?

Answer:

Unless an employee was out on job-protected leave, such as Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA), you are not required to return them to their original position or to an equivalent one (or bring them back at all). Given the impact of COVID-19 on business operations across the country, it’s not surprising that organizations may need to restructure their teams to stay afloat or remain competitive. That said, if employees who were furloughed or laid off are asked to come back to a job that feels to them like a demotion, they may be less inclined to accept the offer or may be less engaged in the new role than they were in their previous job.

If you need to restructure their position, it will be helpful to explain why that was necessary. People are generally much more accepting of change if they understand it, and less likely to claim discrimination if you’ve given them your business-related reason for the decision.