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Important FMLA Decisions

Failure to return Employer's Telephone Calls can Defeat FMLA Claim

When an employee's request for medical leave is vague or is unclear, the Family and Medical Leave Act regulations require the employer to question the employee further to determine whether the absence potentially qualifies under the FMLA. When the employee fails to respond to these reasonable inquiries, the employee may lose the right to FMLA protection. Such was the finding of a federal appellate court in Righi vs. SMC Corporation of America. According to the court, Righi's FMLA claim was "doomed" because he made "no effort whatsoever" to keep SMC apprised of his fluid situation and was absent and out of touch with his supervisor for more than a week.

FMLA does not cover faith healing

Tayag v. Lahey Clinic Hospital Inc.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment in favor of a teaching hospital on an employee's claim that it interfered with her rights under the FMLA when it discharged her for taking unapproved leave to visit faith healers in the Philippines. At issue was whether an employee may take FMLA leave to care for a spouse with a serious medical condition who seeks to travel abroad for the purpose of faith-based healing. The 1st Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Lahey, noting that even if caring for a sick spouse on a trip for faith-healing were protected because of its potential psychological benefits, nearly half of Tayag's trip was spent visiting friends, family and local churches. The court concluded that the FMLA does not permit employees to take time off to take a vacation with a seriously ill spouse, even if caring for the spouse is an incidental consequence.

2010 Significant FMLA decisions

The American Bar Association's Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee has published a comprehensive report of significant FMLA decisions handed down by the federal courts in 2010. View the report here.