Caring for Family Member

DOMA.jpgThis past Friday, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would consider whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unlawfully denies benefits to gay and lesbian couples who are married in states that allow such unions.  A Supreme Court decision nullifying DOMA could have wide ranging impacts, including how the Family and Medical Leave

Perhaps it’s just me, but I recently have received several calls from clients inquiring about an employee’s right to take FMLA leave to care for an adult child (i.e., age 18 or older).  Some examples include: Can a grandparent take FMLA leave to care for her daughter after the birth of her baby?  Or can

flood.jpgNatural disasters like the kind we recently have witnessed in the flood-ravaged areas of the southern United States raise a host of issues for employers.  Some wonder whether they are required to pay their employees during suspended operations; others are unsure whether and to what extent health benefits should be offered.  But what about an

When an employee’s request for medical leave is vague or is unclear, the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations specifically allow (in fact, they require) the employer to question the employee further to determine whether the absence potentially qualifies under the FMLA.  When the employee fails to respond to these reasonable inquiries, the employee may lose the right to FMLA protection. 

Such was the case for Robert Righi.  In a fantastic opinion for employers, a federal appellate court recently upheld the dismissal of Mr. Righi’s FMLA claim because he failed to respond to his supervisor’s telephone calls inquiring about his need for a leave of absence.  Righi v. SMC Corporation of America

The Facts

Righi, a salesman for SMC Corp., was the primary caretaker for his mother, who regularly suffered complications from diabetes.  As a result, Righi often took FMLA leave to care for her.  On the occasion at issue, however, he asked for time off after his mother accidentally overdosed on her medication. 


Continue Reading Employee’s Failure to Return Supervisor’s Phone Calls Dooms FMLA Claim

Flood insurance pic.jpgFor employers, it pays to listen closely to the reason for which an employee requests time off, since the reason may not always be covered by the FMLA.  Kind of like occasions when the employee tells you he needs time off to clean his mother’s flooded basement.

Take Joe Lane, a medical technologist for Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital.  Joe, who lived with his mother, sought and was granted FMLA intermittent FMLA leave for six months to care for his mom, who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, weight loss and arthritis.  He needed leave from time to time to provide her food and transport her to doctors’ appointments, which he did without issue for the next four months.

For Joe, when it rains, it pours. Literally. Right into his mother’s basement. Joe was absent for four consecutive days and, in violation of the Hospital’s personnel policies, he failed to call in his absences. Thereafter, he informed the Hospital that he would need additional time off to clean up flooding in his mom’s basement. He claimed that the “flood cleaning days” should be excused because his mother had hepatitis and the stagnant water was a “breeding ground” for the disease. The Hospital disagreed and fired him.

At that moment, Joe’s FMLA claims went down the drain.


Continue Reading Cleaning Up Mom’s Flooded Basement Not Protected by FMLA