Sick Sibling, Healthy Kids Don’t Trigger FMLA Leave, Ohio Court Rules

Employment Law

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) doesn’t cover an employee’s leave to care for the healthy children of an ill sibling, according to a new decision from an Ohio federal court.

Andrew Brede was hired by Apple in September 2008 and worked as a member of the Genius Team until his employment was terminated in August 2019.

In July 2018, Brede requested intermittent FMLA leave of approximately one day every two weeks to care for his niece and nephew because of his sister’s serious medical condition.

Over the following months, Apple denied Brede a promotion, allegedly because of his inability to come to work, and he received a negative rating in a performance review, which was attributed to “spotty attendance.” Shortly after he renewed his request for intermittent FMLA leave, Brede was fired for violating company policy with regard to a customer’s computer hard drive.

He filed suit, alleging that his termination was both an interference with his FMLA rights and retaliation for his exercise of those rights. Apple moved to dismiss the suit.

Concluding that Brede failed to seek leave for an FMLA-qualifying reason, U.S. District Judge Sara Lioi granted the motion.

The statute permits leave for self-care and “care for the spouse, or a son, daughter or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter or parent has a serious health condition.” The term “son or daughter” means a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is either under 18 years of age or 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

“The flaw in Brede’s FMLA claims on both theories is that, although his allegation that he stands in loco parentis to the minor children of his seriously-ill sister is taken as true for purposes of the motion to dismiss, his requested leave to care for those children was not FMLA-qualifying,” Judge Lioi wrote.

Brede did not allege that either of the minor children—who would be considered his daughter and son under in loco parentis—was experiencing a “serious health condition” that required his care, the court said. Instead, Brede’s sister had the serious health condition.

“Even if Brede’s care of the children could be seen, by extension, as care for his sick sister (and Brede cites no legal authority for that proposition), the FMLA does not entitle an employee to take leave to care for a sibling with a serious health condition,” the court wrote.

As Brede did not allege that he was entitled to FMLA leave to care for his sister’s children, he failed to state a claim for relief under the statute, Judge Lioi concluded, dismissing the complaint.

To read the memorandum opinion in Brede v. Apple Computer Inc., click here.

Why it matters: With care for siblings not covered under the FMLA and the children themselves healthy, the plaintiff failed to establish that he qualified for leave under the FMLA, the court said, tossing his lawsuit.



pursuant to New York DR 2-101(f)

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