Where is the envelope for employees with FMLA regulations?

by on March 18, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

FMLA leave covers specific medical situations and immediate family

Supervisor Al Dunbar’s initial reaction was to say no when Julio Rosario asked him if he could take Family and Medical Act leave. But Al changed his mind at the last minute, telling Julio, “You know, this may not really be covered under FMLA regulations, but I feel for you and want to help out.”

Julio, a metal assembler, had taken FMLA leave periodically over the past year to care for his seriously ill wife.

But now his wife’s father had died in Mexico and Julio wanted to go to the funeral.

A father-in-law didn’t qualify as “immediate family” under the company’s bereavement policy, but Julio said his wife was too sick to travel alone.

On one condition

“The only condition,” said Al, “is that you call me every three days and let me know how it’s going. I need to know when you’ll be back because I’ve got staffing concerns in the plant.”

Unfortunately, Julio didn’t call three days later. He was gone 10 days without a single communication, so Al fired him when he got back.

“But there were no phones,” said Julio. “I couldn’t call.”

Al explained that Julio’s failure to call created a scheduling nightmare. “I made a simple request, you didn’t follow it. You’re fired,” Al said.

Julio sued under FMLA regulations

How the court ruled

The court rejected Julio’s claim and ruled in favor of the company.

It said that employees have the right to leave work to care for a family member with a serious health condition as defined in FMLA regulations.

But they aren’t entitled to leave when a family member decides to travel away from home for personal reasons unrelated to medical treatment, such as attending a funeral.

Bottom line: You can require workers to check in during their FMLA leave, and then hold workers accountable if they fail to live up to their end of the bargain.

Cite: Gradillo v. Riskin Manufacturing, No. 01-56725, 9th Cir.

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