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FMLA: It’s not your job to decide whether relative needs your employee’s help

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in Human Resources,Overtime Labor Laws

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave “to care for the em­­ployee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition.” The law does not, however, give employers the right to decide that the sick relative has enough assistance and doesn’t need your employee’s help.

That argument won’t fly—from a compassion or legal perspective.

Recent case: Jerry Romans worked at a juvenile detention facility. His mother was hospitalized for cancer and was expected to die soon.

Toward the end of a shift, Romans’ sister called to tell him she expected their mother to die that night. She asked him to come to the hospital, so the two of them could make care decisions, including whether to cut off their mother’s life support.

Romans told his boss. But the boss said Romans needed to stay and work a second shift since another employee just called in sick. Romans arranged for a substitute and left despite the order.

Romans went to the hospital, but worried he would lose his job. Instead of seeing his mother, who died, he returned to work. Then he sued, alleging interference with his FMLA leave.

The employer argued he wasn’t entitled to leave, since his sister was already present at their mother’s bedside. The court disagreed and said that under the circumstances, Romans should have been granted leave immediately. (Romans v. Michigan, No. 10-2174, 6th Cir., 2012)

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