SW Legal studies in Business

FMLA Leave Rejected for Alleged Bad Back and Daughter’s Post-Partum Depression

Appeals court held that an employer could not be sued for violating an employee’s FMLA leave right. The employee was dismissed for taking too much leave for a bad back that could not be confirmed and for her daughter’s post-partum depression—a condition that does not qualify.

Topic Employment Law
Key Words Family and Medical Leave Act; Certification; Serious Health Condition
C A S E   S U M M A R Y

Novak worked for MetroHealth. Employees were allowed to take a certain number of days of leave annually with no questions asked. Novak exceeded the number of leave days permitted and was fired. She missed a lot of work first because she said her daughter was having a baby and then because she had back pain. She then took more leave saying her daughter was suffering from depression after the birth of her baby. The form submitted by a physician to support Novak’s claim about a bad back was rejected because the physician had not seen her for months. He just submitted the form because Novak asked him to do so. Novak sued, contending MetroHealth violated her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The district court dismissed the suit. Novak appealed.

Decision Affirmed. The certification Novak provided for her claimed back injury was insufficient to establish the existence of a serious health condition under the FMLA. The form submitted by the physician could be rejected for good reason, and it was not the responsibility of the employer to seek a qualified opinion. Novak was given the opportunity to provide qualified support for her assertion, but did not. Providing care for her daughter who was suffering from post-partum depression was not an FMLA-qualifying reason for Novak to miss work. Her daughter’s depression did not constitute a disability that substantially limited any major life activity. FMLA does not entitle an employee to take leave to care for a grandchild; it does permit care for a disabled adult child.
Citation Novak v. MetroHealth Medical Center, 503 F.3d 572 (6th Cir., 2007)

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