Woman Says She Was Fired for Taking Leave to Care for Sick Parent
What all workers should know about the Family and Medical Leave Act
Lots of people struggle to find that elusive work/life balance. But juggling all of life’s responsibilities can become even more difficult when a family member becomes ill.
Even though many employees are eligible to take time off to care for loved ones through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), not all employers are eager to cooperate with the law.
Let’s take a look at what happened in a recent case, in which a woman was allegedly fired over her caretaking duties.
Two sick parents
Jill Diamond was a clinical social worker for the Visiting Nurse Association of the Florida Keys. During her time with the company, she sometimes used intermittent FMLA leave to care for her aging parents, both of whom had serious health conditions.
However, things changed after Diamond’s mother was hospitalized. Suddenly, Diamond needed more time off with less notice, and sometimes for periods of several days at a time.
Diamond was asked to provide documentation, such as gas, food, or healthcare receipts, proving that she was traveling to her parents’ town. Her employer also reminded her that if she was found working for another company, she would be terminated.
Diamond questioned the need for further paperwork, since those requirements were not spelled out in the company handbook. She says she was warned that her continued absences were having a negative impact on the company, and that she would need to provide documentation for the other days she had taken FMLA leave without giving 30 days’ notice first.
Not long after that, Diamond was fired for alleged performance deficiencies.
She spoke to a lawyer and sued the company for interfering with her rights under the FMLA.
The company attempted to have the case thrown out, but was unsuccessful. An appeals court allowed the case to proceed.
It stated that the company may have interfered with Diamond’s right to take FMLA by discouraging her from taking leave to care for a sick family member. The court also questioned the company’s motives in asking for specific kinds of documentation. That is, asking for food or gas receipts might have been an attempt to determine Diamond’s whereabouts, rather than determining whether her parent was suffering from a serious medical condition.
The case will now proceed to a jury trial.
(The case discussed here is Diamond v. Hospice of Florida Keys.)
What the law says
Under the FMLA, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year in order to care for family members with serious health conditions.
That leave may also be taken as intermittent leave, rather than used all at once. Intermittent leave is often used for medical appointments, therapies, or episodic flare-ups of certain conditions.
Federal law prohibits companies from retaliating against workers who exercise their rights under the FMLA. Retaliation may include termination, demotion, or being subjected to other adverse employment actions after requesting or taking FMLA leave.
Call us for a consultation now
If you believe that you were unlawfully denied FMLA leave, or that you were fired for requesting leave, it’s a good idea to consult an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.