You must grant FMLA leave for employee who must care for badly injured adult child

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave to care for a seriously ill son or daughter. That’s true for young children, of course, but also for those older than 18 who are “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.”

Don’t split hairs on this. Some employers believe that an adult child who is hurt in an accident isn’t covered if she was capable of self-care before the accident. That’s not true.

Recent case: Deborah Patton, who worked as an accountant for e-Cardio Diagnostics, has a daughter who was seriously injured in a wreck while riding in a friend’s car. The friend died and Patton’s daughter, age 18, was hospitalized in intensive care with two broken legs, a punctured lung and a punctured bladder.

While Patton was off to care for her daughter in the hospital, e-Cardio Diagnostics hired a replacement. It then terminated Patton when she came back to work a week after the accident.

She sued, alleging she had been fired despite being eligible for FMLA leave.

The company argued that because her daughter was over age 18, Patton couldn’t take FMLA leave to care for her.

The court disagreed. It said that what counts is the offspring’s condition at the time Patton took leave, not before the accident. And clearly the daughter was unable to care for herself while in intensive care. (Patton v. e-Cardio Diagnostics, No. 10-1847, SD TX, 2011)

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