Frantz Coutard worked for Municipal Credit Union. He asked for time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to care for this grandfather. His grandfather had raised Mr. Coutard from the age of four until he was approximately 14 years old. When his grandfather was sent to the hospital, Mr. Coutard asked to care for him until home-health care could be arranged. The Credit Union denied Mr. Coutard’s request because the statute does not apply to grandparents.
Mr. Coutard sued. He argued that he would have let his employer know about the in loco parentis relationship with his grandfather but he did not understand how FMLA worked. The Credit Union did not believe that it was required to inform Mr. Coutard about FMLA coverage of in loco parentis relationships.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals placed the burden of seeking more information on the employer. “When an employee seeks leave for the first time for a FMLA-qualifying reason, the employee need not expressly assert rights under the FMLA.” If the employer believed that information was missing, then it was incumbent on the employer to obtain the information. In the absence of the employer requesting information, the employee has provided sufficient notice that FMLA may reasonably apply. According to the circuit court, “parent” was defined to include “an individual who stood in loco parentis to an employee when the employee” was “under 18 years of age,” because children are increasingly raised by others including “the grandparents.”