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Parent may take FMLA leave to care for grown children

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Gladys Navarro asked her employer, Pfizer Corp., for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave because she wanted to take care of her adult daughter who was ordered to bed rest because of pregnancy complications. Pfizer denied the request, Navarro left anyway and the company fired her. She sued.

Many employers believe the FMLA covers only absences for employees' children who are minors. Not true. Navarro's leave may have been covered by a provision in the FMLA that grants parents time off to care for children age 18 or older when they're unable to take care of themselves because of a mental or physical disability.

In the first federal appeals court decision on the issue, a split panel from the 1st Circuit said the pregnancy complications of Navarro's daughter may have qualified Navarro for leave. (Navarro v. Pfizer Corp., No. 00-1856, 1st Cir., 2001)

Advice: At a minimum, don't automatically assume that your employee can't take FMLA leave to care for a child older than 18. Weigh the adult child's condition in making your decision. But this issue isn't settled. The FMLA regulations defer to ADA regulations on disability, but the majority in this case found a much lower threshold for FMLA rights based on the disability of an adult child.

 

FMLA resources

Government Web site. The U.S. Labor Department's "Elaws" Web site walks you through compliance steps. Visit www.dol.gov/elaws/ fmla.htm.

FMLA hotline. The Labor Department also has an FMLA hotline to handle employer and employee questions. Call (800) 959-FMLA.

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