Pregnancy and the care of adult children under FMLA guidelines
You’ve got to be joking!” cried Jean Sheridan. She was on the phone, speaking with Dick Gormley, bakery department supervisor.
“No, I’m not, Jean,” Dick said. “We’ve already hired someone to take your place. Did you think you could just take an extra two weeks unpaid leave? We’ve got work to do around here.”
Jean’s words tumbled out. “I told you up front my daughter was going into labor, and her husband was laid up and couldn’t help out, and I needed time off. This just isn’t fair!”
ABANDONED THE JOB
“This is the first I’ve heard from you since you left for Colorado, Jean,” Dick countered. “And that was four weeks ago. We gave you two weeks unpaid company leave when you asked for it, but I told you four weeks off was never in the cards. You should’ve come back sooner.”
“There were complications, and my grandchild needed me,” Jean cried. “This is covered by FMLA regulations and I should get my job back.”
Jean sued, claiming the company improperly denied her FMLA leave, and retaliated against her.
Did she win?
No. The court threw Jean’s claim out and an appeals court agreed she didn’t have a case.
The judge said that, under FMLA regulations, pregnancy is not a “serious medical condition.” Plus, Jean did not mention any complications – or invoke the FMLA – until after the fact.
The court drew a distinction between being pregnant and being “incapacitated due to pregnancy” which does qualify as a “serious medical condition.”
If that were the case, and Jean’s adult daughter were “incapable of self-care,” FMLA regulations might well apply.
Lesson: Courts will back you up if you decide to terminate a worker who tries to claim FMLA protection after the fact. Just make sure you check with HR to make sure you are on solid ground.
Cite: Cruz v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc., No. 05-10245, 11th Cir., 10/31/05.
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