How Far Can You Stretch the FMLA Provision?

Tulsa, Oklahoma (PressExposure) June 27, 2011 -- The limits of an FMLA covered leave were understood in a recent case involving a medical technologist at a hospital. The employee secured intermittent leave under the FMLA citing the reason of taking care of his mother who was a patient of arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes and weight loss. The individual was granted leave for the express reason of giving her food and taking her to the doctors for her various appointments.

FMLA Leave for Cleaning Flooded Basement?

The employee took intermittent leave for quite a few months for the same reason, but then gave another reason for taking 4 consecutive days of leave - cleaning the flooded basement of his mother. He also did not call in these leave days, violating the hospital policy. The hospital was then forced to terminate him when he requested further leave again to clean up the basement claiming it was detrimental to his mother's health. The employee then sued, charging FMLA rights violation. However the district court gave a ruling in favor of the employer.

The Court's Verdict

According to the court, cleaning up the flooded basement had nothing to do with the health of his mother and hence his 3-day leave was not applicable as an FMLA-covered one. What further weakened the case against the employee was that his medical certification form did not have flood cleaning as coming under covered care. He couldn't explain how cleaning up after a flood came under the definition of taking care of a family member having a serious health disorder, or prove that failing to immediately clean the basement would worsen his mother's health condition.

The really unacceptable part of the medical technologist's conduct was that he did not give the employer notice of bringing his flood cleanup leave under the FMLA cover, but just decided to sue on that ground when he was terminated from employment.

Limits of the FMLA Provisions

The case has served to enlighten employers and staff about the extent to which FMLA rights can be demanded. FMLA regulations have recently been revised by the DOL and the extent of covered care and leave has expanded, but there are no loopholes in the rules which employees can exploit, or at least the matter has now been clarified.

Employers can always decide whether the care which the employee wishes to take leave for, is "direct" or "indirect". Psychological care is also part of "covered care" if the individual taken care of is covered. Circumstances where the employee has to arrange for a nursing home to transfer the relative, arrange transportation, or fill in for a relative who generally provides the care can also be covered.

Leave for Unrelated Reasons Not Covered under FMLA

However, circumstances without any apparent relation to giving care to the family member can't be brought under the FMLA's provisions unless the employee can prove that failure to perform such an action will adversely affect the health of the person. FMLA also provides covered leave only for a "family member with a serious health condition". FMLA leave can't be claimed for unrelated reasons such as the circumstance presented by the hospital staff in this case.

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Press Release Submitted On: June 27, 2011 at 1:15 am
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