Employee’s Leave To Care For Children Of Seriously Ill Sister Does Not Qualify As FMLA Leave

CATEGORY: Private Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Private Education
DATE: Apr 30, 2020

Edward Brede was a full-time employee of Apple Computer Inc. (Apple), working at an Apple store in Ohio.  After Brede’s sister was diagnosed with a serious health condition, he requested intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for his niece and nephew, who were minors, one day every two weeks.  Apple granted the request.  Over the next year, Brede alleges that Apple denied him a promotion and gave him a negative rating on a performance evaluation due to his attendance.  Brede then renewed his intermittent FMLA leave.  Shortly thereafter, Apple reprimanded Brede for violating company policy on maintaining custody of a customer’s hard drive.  Apple then terminated him for violating that policy.

Brede filed a claim against Apple alleging that his termination interfered with his FMLA rights and was in retaliation for his exercise of FMLA rights.  Apple filed a motion to dismiss Brede’s claims.  Apple essentially argued that Brede was unable to show that he was entitled to FMLA leave.  Brede countered that he was entitled to FMLA leave because he served in loco parentis to his niece and nephew due to his sister’s serious health condition.

The FMLA permits an eligible employee to take a total of 12 workweeks of leave during a 12-month period for specified reasons, including to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent if they have a serious health condition.  Under the FMLA, a “son or daughter” is defined as a biological child, adopted child, foster child, stepchild, or a legal ward.  A “son or daughter” also means a child of a person standing in loco parentis who is under 18 years of age or who is over 18 years of age and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

After examining the plain language of the FMLA, the court determined that Brede was unable to show that the intermittent leave he used to care for his niece and nephew was FMLA-qualifying.  The court explained that even if Brede stood in loco parentis to his niece and nephew, it was sister, and not his niece and nephew, who had the serious health condition that required his care.  Further, the court noted that even if Brede’s care for his niece and nephew somehow constituted care for his sister, the FMLA does not entitle an employee to leave to care for a sibling with a serious health condition.  Because Brede could not show that he was entitled to FMLA leave to care for his sister’s children, the court granted Apple’s motion and dismissed the case.

Brede v. Apple Computer Inc. (N.D. Ohio, Jan. 23, 2020, No. 1:19-CV-2130) 2020 WL 377696.