The federal Family and Medical leave Act (FMLA) doesn’t protect an employee’s right to take time off to visit grandma, right? Not so fast. In a recent case from a federal court in Missouri, an employee presented enough evidence to proceed to trial over whether he should have been granted FMLA leave to visit his dying grandmother. The grandmother actually raised the employee when he was a child, which means that she may have stood “in loco parentis” (or “in the shoes of a parent”) for him. In this case, the employee may have qualified for FMLA leave to care for his grandmother because she may have acted as a parent to him. But how was the employer supposed to know about that special relationship? According to the court, the employee’s statement that he needed to go see his sick grandma because she “took care of” him may have been enough to put them on notice of the in loco parentis relationship (Ruble v. American River Transportation Co., ED Mo, June 2011).
Tips: Qualifying for FMLA leave to care for a family member isn’t always easy to identify; you can’t rely on simple biological relationships. An employee can qualify for leave if there is an in loco parentis relationship either for a child that they are caring for or if someone else acted as their parent when they were young. If you have any information about a special relationship, be sure to ask more questions before denying leave. Review our Legal Guide, “FMLA: Qualifying Events and Notice Requirements” (1442) and call your Vigilant staff representative with specific questions.
This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult Vigilant or legal counsel.