Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FMLA Does Not Cover Cleaning Mom's Flooded Basement

From a decision out of the federal eastern district court in Michigan, an employer was granted summary judgment after it terminated one of its employees after he missed four consecutive days without notifying the employer that he was out taking care of his mother's flooded basement. The former employee, Joe Lane, had previously taken six months FMLA leave to care for his for his mom, who suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, weight loss and arthritis. Over the four subsequent month's Lane also took FMLA leave from time-to-time to care for his mom by taking her to doctor's appointments and getting her food. Then, Lane's mother's basement flooded and he claimed it also qualified under FMLA leave because his mother had hepatitis and the stagnant water was a "breeding ground" for the disease. The district court disagreed.

The district court found several problems with Lane's FMLA interference claim:

1. Cleaning the flood was not listed among his enumerated duties in the medical certification form;

2. Joe had not established that cleaning mom's basement met the definition of "caring for" a family member with a serious health condition;

3. Joe could not show that his mom's hepatitis was in danger of being aggravated if he did not clean the basement immediately; and

4. In any event, Joe's request for leave to clean his mom's basement failed to put the employer on notice of the need for FMLA leave.

I have a hunch Lane wouldn't have been fired had he notified his employer that he would be off work to attend to his mother instead of no call/no show'ing for four days. Thoughts?

The case is Lane v. Pontiac Osteopathic Hospital, Case No. 09-12634 (E.D. Mich. June 21, 2010).

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