When Am I Entitled To Take Leave Under The FMLA?

A recent case out of Michigan has determined that a man may proceed to trial on the question of whether he was entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to help his sister to decide whether to take their mother off of life support.

The FMLA is a federal employment law that provides that eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks unpaid leave from their jobs each year under certain circumstances including caring for your own serious health condition, the birth or care of a newborn or adopted child and caring for family members who have a serious illness. It may be possible to bring a lawsuit if an employer interferes with your right to take leave or retaliates against you for taking leave. If you have questions concerning whether you are eligible to take leave, or believe your employer is taking negative actions against you for taking leave, it is important to consult with an experienced Georgia employment discrimination attorney to discuss your next steps and answer your family and medical leave questions.

In Romans v. Michigan Dep’t of Human Servs., a fire and safety officer, Jerry Romans, requested leave to make the decision whether to keep his mother on life support. Romans intended to go to the hospital immediately following his shift but was told he couldn’t leave because a co-worker called in sick. Although Romans found a volunteer to cover for him, he was not allowed to leave. In spite of the leave denial, Romans went to the hospital to help his sister make care-related decisions. At the hospital, Romans grew concerned about losing his job and immediately went back.

Romans was suspended for his actions and subsequently filed an employment discrimination lawsuit based on violations of his right to leave and retaliation. Although the lower court found that because the sister was available to make the decision, Romans’ presence wasn’t required to provide care for the mother, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for Michigan disagreed, determining that pursuant to the FMLA the phrase ‘needed to care for’ includes making decisions such as whether a family member should be kept on life support. As explained by the court, “A decision regarding whether an ill mother should stay on life support would logically be encompassed by ‘arrangements for changes in care,’ … “To be sure, this is the kind of decision, like transfer to a nursing home, that few people would relish making without the help of other family members, and the regulations do not force them to do so.”

As a result, the court found that Romans’ claims could proceed to trial.

The FMLA was passed in order to allow employees time to care for a loved one. It is important that employers recognize this important aspect of worker’s lives and not interfere with an individual’s right to take leave. If you have questions concerning your right to take leave or believe that you have been retaliated against because of leave, please contact the dedicated Atlanta employment attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP PC for a confidential case evaluation.