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FMLA: Treat leave request involving adult children similarly to those involving parents

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Generally, employees aren’t entitled to FMLA leave to care for adult children who suffer from serious health conditions—unless the child is disabled. The test is whether the child suffers from a physical or mental disability that makes self-care impossible.

Recent case: Sylvia Salas worked for 3M and had a daughter who was 23 years old. When the daughter was hospitalized with pancreatitis, Salas requested FMLA leave. 3M turned down her request because it said Salas’ daughter wasn’t covered by the FMLA.

When Salas sued, the court said the matter wasn’t so clear. First, it noted that Salas said her daughter had learning disabilities, was unable to cook, got lost easily and might have been harmed at birth by an oxygen shortage.

If true, the court reasoned, that might mean she met the second part of the test—namely, that the daughter had a physical or mental disability. Second, both the pancreatitis and the underlying disability might make the daughter incapable of self-care. The court ordered a trial. (Salas v. 3M, et al., No. 08-C-1614, ND IL, 2009)
Final note: In order to decide whether the FMLA covers an adult child, you will have to ask the employee for the information about physical or mental disabilities. Put the request in writing just as you would for any other family member, such as leave requests involving caring for parents. Make that part of your routine before you deny an FMLA claim to care for an adult child.

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