Published on October 25th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover
“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.
She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
– Ellen DeGeneres
ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Just recently, in the course of representing a client, I carefully reviewed the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) law and its regulations. When I did, I learned something that I did not know, but wish I had known: Under the federal FMLA regulations, the definition of “parent” includes any person who acted in the place of your parent when you were a minor, even if they were not related to you in any way.
When I learned this startling fact, I was able to assist my client in establishing that his employer had clearly violated the FMLA law when it refused him a FMLA leave of absence to assist his ailing uncle who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. On the basis of this “discovery,” my client was able to “be there” for the uncle who “was there” for him after his own parents had been taken from him as the result of a fatal car wreck when he was just a teenager.
I hope this “discovery” is helpful to you, or someone you know, if and when you need to be an “angel” to someone who once was an “angel” for you.
LESSON TO LEARN: The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) entitles eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid leave to care for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent, with a serious health condition. It is a great law, because it permits employees up to 12 weeks off to care for family members, and at the same time guarantees their jobs when they return (with just a few narrow exceptions.)
In enacting the FMLA law, the U.S. Congress wisely recognized the changing nature of the American family. The Congress also recognized changes in the American population, including the growing number of elderly Americans and the growing need of employed persons to provide care both for their children and their parents.
For FMLA purposes, a “parent” is defined broadly, in keeping with the changing nature of the American family. A “parent” under FMLA includes the (i) biological, (ii) adoptive, (iii) step, or (iv) foster parent of an employee. Most interestingly, “parent” under FMLA also includes an individual who acted “in loco parentis” to the employee, when the employee was a minor.
“In loco parentis” is a Latin phrase that means “in the place of a parent.” It refers to the type of relationship in which a person has put themselves in the situation of a parent by voluntarily assuming and discharging the obligations of a parent to a child. It exists when an individual intends to take on the role of a parent. It does NOT require any pre-existing legal, biological or other relation.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: If you are in a quandary about needing time off work to care for a person who cared for you when you were a minor, it may be wise to bear in mind these five points:
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