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Friday, June 5, 2015

Court Imposes FMLA Catch-22

If you arrive at a friend's house at 12:05 a.m. and leave 14 hours later, would you say you stayed overnight? Of course you would. It's common sense. But common sense is sadly lacking in employment law many times.

In a case where an employee faced a FMLA Catch-22, the Third Circuit said that an employee who arrived at the hospital before midnight but who was actually admitted after midnight didn't stay overnight, and so was not protected by FMLA.

Why is "overnight stay" important? Well, the FMLA statute itself says zero about overnight. It says:

(11) Serious health condition
The term “serious health condition” means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves—
(A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or
(B) continuing treatment by a health care provider.

The regulations, though, say this:

§825.113 Serious health condition.
(a) For purposes of FMLA, serious health condition entitling an employee to FMLA leave means an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care as defined in §825.114 or continuing treatment by a health care provider as defined in §825.115.
§825.114 Inpatient care.
Inpatient care means an overnight stay in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity as defined in §825.113(b), or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care.
So, although the statute says "inpatient care," the regs say "overnight stay." Oy vey. Bottom line is that, at least in the 3rd Circuit, in order to be covered under FMLA for an inpatient stay, you must have been actually admitted (remember, many ER visits don't count as being "admitted," and you can be stuck there for many hours before being actually admitted, so too bad for you if the hospital has a busy night) in one calendar day and discharged in a different calendar day AND stay at least 8 hours once you're admitted.

You'd think being tortured in the hospital for 14 hours, plus however many hours it took them to admit this poor employee would be enough, but no. And you'd think an employer wouldn't fire someone for being in the hospital, but no.

This is another example of how the laws fail employees on a regular basis.


  1. I really can't believe the company denied his claim in the first place. I understand why they won--the law is poorly written. But, holy cow, the evilness of that HR person and manager.

    1. Yes Suzanne. A true evil HR lady (or man).

    2. I really cannot imagine anyone saying, "hmmm, you were admitted after midnight, so I'm going to stamp no!" And then I can't believe a company fought this.

  2. I have a question maybe someone can help me with. I work for a very big company and I have Autoimmune Iffecency, Addison's disease. I get sick of per say others around me are sick(I have no immune system, except taking Cortef Steroid daily to live) there is times I have been out sick, I can't predict how I will feel from one day to the next. This is a very rare disease. I have been at my job 18 months it is a high stress job(stress plays a major factor in Addison's, we do not make the cortisol of a regular people do, so we can not tolerate stress well) my former boss and general manager (from less then a year ago, now 3rd boss and 45th general manager) were wonderful, they knew and understood my disease and if I had to take a day or two offf here or there they did not care. I'm a Salary employee and have always worked more then my 8 hour days when I was there. Part of our benefits is short term disability as well as long term. But yesterday HR signed me up for FMLA, which now means if I miss a day I don't get paid. Does anyone k,ow if this is legal? I do not miss that much time and usually make Dr appt for after work hours. I used my vacation time when I was sick. I'm so upset about this, because so many people miss so much work there and they are not punished because they don't have a uncurable illness. Suggestions anyone?


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.