By Gregory J. Wartman, Saul Ewing LLP
A Pennsylvania federal court recently ruled in favor of an employee who was terminated after taking leave to care for her sick parents. The court ruled that an employee does not have to use magic language in requesting Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and rejected the employer’s attempt to classify the employee’s absence as paid leave under its policies. The court found that the FMLA protects all leave taken under the Act, regardless of how the employer designates it.
In 2006, Wyoming County hired Debra Raimondi as assistant director of its 911 center. She was promoted to director in 2007. In late April 2014, Raimondi’s elderly father, who lived in Indiana, broke his femur and required surgery.
He was admitted to a nursing home after the operation. Around the same time, her mother, who also lived in Indiana, entered a nursing home. Raimondi’s father asked her to travel to Indiana to care for her mother because he didn’t believe she was receiving adequate care at the nursing home. In June 2014, Raimondi went to Indiana to care for her parents.
On or around July 1, 2014, Raimondi spoke with Wyoming County commissioners, who told her she had the option of being terminated or resigning. A week later, she attended a meeting and advised the commissioners that she would not resign. The commissioners terminated her employment via a letter dated July 10, 2014.
Raimondi filed a lawsuit against the county in federal district court. After discovery (the pretrial exchange of evidence), she asked the court to grant judgment in her favor without a trial based on the undisputed facts.