Labor Violation in|Nonprofit’s Firing of Mom

     CHICAGO (CN) – A woman who could not specify how much time she needed off work when her daughter underwent cancer treatment should have won her case against the nursing home that fired her, the 7th Circuit ruled.
     Suzan Gienapp told her employer Harbor Crest, a residential nursing care facility, that her daughter had thyroid cancer in January 2011 and requested time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
     The law entitled Gienapp to up to 12 weeks unpaid leave to care for a child with a serious health condition.
     Harbor Crest granted Gienapp the leave but hired someone else to fill her position before the 12 weeks were up. When she returned to work on March 29, Harbor Crest told her that she no longer had a job.
     A federal judge granted Gienapp’s employers summary judgment on her FMLA claims, but the 7th Circuit reversed Tuesday.
     Though Gienapp had not given her employer an exact date of return, the court said Harbor Crest should not have terminated her unless she failed to return after 12 weeks.
     “Because her daughter’s status was changeable, Gienapp could not have given a firm date; the Department of Labor’s regulations call her situation ‘unforeseeable’ leave,” Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for a three-judge panel. “The daughter might die soon, and then Gienapp could return to work; or she might live longer (as she did; her cancer is in remission) but need more care than other members of the family could provide.”
     The judge added: “It is hard to see why omitting something obvious should have such a striking legal effect – certainly not when Harbor Crest could and should have asked,” when Gienapp intended to return.
     Harbor Crest also cannot point to the fact that Gienapp primarily took care of her grandchildren during her leave, the court found, noting that such care reduced the burden on those who cared for her daughter.
     “A person who knows that her family is well looked after has an important resource in trying to recover from a medical challenge,” Easterbrook wrote. “Doubtless some forms of familial assistance are too tangential to hold out a prospect of psychological benefits to a covered relative, but Harbor Crest does not contend that Gienapp’s aid was too slight to qualify. Given its concession in the district court, Harbor Crest must stake its all on the proposition that devoting any time to the care of grandchildren disqualifies a person from FMLA leave. That’s wrong.”
     The ruling concludes with the finding that Gienapp is entitled to summary judgment.

%d bloggers like this: