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Reminder: Denial of FMLA Leave to Care for Adult Child May Violate Law

When Christine Gibson requested a leave of absence from her job to care for her 31-year-old daughter and young grandchildren, New York State of Mental Health denied the request. Leave to care for the grandchildren was based on the fact that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does not include leave to care for minor grandchildren. Leave to care for her daughter was denied because she was over 18. This denial was incorrect, according to the federal district court.
Under the FMLA, employees may take leave to care for a son or daughter with a serious health condition. In defining “son or daughter,” the statute includes individuals over 18 years of age when they are incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability. Gibson’s employer had reviewed the request with an attorney before making its decision to deny her request.
A federal district court considering the case on summary judgment reviewed the employer’s documentation which included the denial letter to Gibson and the notes from the employer’s conversation with its attorney. In those documents, there was no indication that the employer considered whether Gibson’s daughter was capable of self-care. As a jury could find that the employer did not rely on such a determination of whether the daughter could care for herself in denying Gibson’s leave, New York State of Mental Health could be found to have violated the law.