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FMLA “Serious Health Condition” Clarified

On May 22, 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals (which covers Pennsylvania) clarified what constitutes a “serious health condition” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Under the FMLA, a serious health condition requires either “inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility” or “continuing treatment by a health care provider.” 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11)(A).

In Bonkowski v. Oberg Industries, Inc., No. 14-1239 (3d Cir. 2015), the employee went to a hospital shortly after 11:00 p.m. on November 14, 2011. He was admitted to the hospital shortly after midnight on November 15, 2011. He underwent testing and was discharged in the evening of November 15, 2011. The question was whether this admission counted as “inpatient care” as defined by the FMLA and its regulations.

The relevant regulation, 29 C.F.R. § 825.114, defines “inpatient care” to require “an overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical facility.” The issue faced by the court was how to define “an overnight stay.” Here, the employee was admitted and discharged on the same day, even though the admission lasted several hours. The court held that “an overnight stay” requires both that the employee be admitted on one calendar day and discharged on a subsequent calendar day, and that the employee be admitted for a substantial period of time. While the court suggested that “a minimum of eight hours would seem to be an appropriate period of time,” it did not decide that an inpatient stay requires at least an eight-hour admission.

What Does This Mean For You? Employers do not need to rubberstamp requests for FMLA leave, but should instead carefully examine whether the employee qualifies for FMLA leave. While the FMLA provides employees with broad rights, these rights are not unlimited.

If you have any questions about this or any other employment or labor law issue, please contact Whitney Rahman at (717) 509-7237 or swr@blakingerthomas.com.

 **This update is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as creating an attorney-client relationship where one does not already exist**