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Strange but true requests for leave >

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has generated a lot of stories involving unusual leave requests.

Many cases end up in court, which suggests that no matter how bizarre the circumstances, the employee (and his or her attorney) apparently believed the claim was valid.

In one case, an employee was unable to obtain approval for vacation during the same week as his fiancée, who worked for the same company.

However, he later obtained approval for FMLA leave during that week. The following year, he again requested vacation during the same week as his fiancée, the request was again denied, and he again requested FMLA leave.

Becoming suspicious, the employer investigated and learned that the couple was vacationing in Las Vegas while on “FMLA leave.” The employee was terminated, but later sued. Not surprisingly, his lawsuit was unsuccessful, since the court found that his FMLA use was fraudulent (Crouch v. Whirlpool Corporation, Seventh Circuit, 2006).

The 'needed to care for' rule

Many cases arise under the FMLA provision allowing leave when an employee is needed to care for a family member. Employers may be uncertain if the type of care to be provided would qualify under the FMLA.

In one situation, an employee requested FMLA leave because his father suffered from anxiety and stress. His father’s doctor recommended a vacation to relax for a few weeks. When requesting time off, the employee did not indicate that he needed to care for his father. I

Instead, he claimed that he was needed to care for his father’s dairy cows. Even though the “needed to care for” rule is fairly broad, caring for livestock does not qualify. Some employees have even requested FMLA leave to care for a pet.

The employee might consider a pet to be part of the family, but the FMLA does not include pets in the definition of a family member.

In another case, an employee was granted FMLA leave to care for his daughter who was hospitalized in Florida after being injured while on vacation.

He took seven weeks of leave, but actually spent four weeks at the family home in Texas. He later claimed he was padding sharp surfaces to prepare for his daughter’s return, and that he maintained regular contact by telephone.

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