Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Q: When is your Grandmother your Parent?
A: Under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

While on vacation in Jamaica, Cynthia Dillon told her employer that her grandmother (who lived in Jamaica) was very ill. According to Ms. Dillon, her grandmother played an intrumental role in Ms. Dillon's life. Ms. Dillon, therfore, asked to extend her leave. Her employer, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPP), denied Ms. Dillon's request stating it needed her in the office. Ms. Dillon stayed in Jamaica after her approved leave expired. When she did not show up for work, M-NCPP terminated her for being AWOL.

Ms. Dillon sued M-NCPP for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). M-NCPP moved for summary judgment contending that Ms. Dillon's grandmother did not qualify as a parent under the FMLA. The FMLA grants certain qualified employees 12 weeks of leave to care for a seriously ill parent. The Act defines parent as "the biological parent . . . or an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee." Loco parentis means standing in the place of a biological parent.

Based on Ms. Dillon's testimony that her grandmother raised, fed, slept with, and provided for her, in August 2005, Judge Chasanow denied M-NCPP's motion for summary judgment.

In March 2006, a jury found in Ms. Dillon's favor. It awarded her $76,914.00 in backpay. As of this writing, the parties' post trial motions are pending.

No comments: