The FMLA allows leave for an eligible employee when the employee is needed to care for certain qualifying family members (child, spouse or parent) with a serious health condition. (The definition of son or daughter includes individuals for whom the employee stood for or is standing “in loco parentis.” The definition of parent includes individuals who stood for “in loco parentis” to the employee. The term “in loco parentis”, Latin for “in the place of a parent”, refers to the legal responsibility of a person or organization to take on some of the functions and responsibilities of a parent. Under FMLA, it specifically references a relationship whereby an individual takes on the role of “parent” to a child who is under the age of 18, or an adult (18 years of age or older) who is incapable of taking care of themselves due to a mental or physical disability. No legal or biological relationship is necessary, provided the individual can satisfy the “in loco parentis” requirements under FMLA.
An employee must be needed to provide care for his or her spouse, son, daughter, or parent because of the family member’s serious health condition in order for the employee to take FMLA leave. “Needed to care for” encompasses both physical and psychological care. It includes, for example:
- Providing care for a qualifying family member who, because of a serious health condition, is unable to care for his or her own basic medical, hygienic, nutritional or safety needs, or is unable to transport himself or herself to the doctor, etc.;
- Providing psychological comfort and reassurance that would be beneficial to a child, spouse or parent with a serious health condition who is receiving inpatient or home care; or
- Filling in for others who normally care for the family member or to make arrangements for changes in care (transfer to a nursing home, for example).
The employee need not be the only individual or family member available to care for the qualifying family member. The need to care for could result in an employee’s need for intermittent leave or a reduced leave schedule to care for a family member where either the condition of the family member itself is intermittent or the employee is only needed intermittently (ie., other care is normally available or the care responsibilities are shared with others, family or third party).
For questions or issues regarding FMLA and how it pertains to employees within your company, CAI’s Advice & Resolution team, can help. Learn more about becoming a CAI member here.
CAI’s Advice & Resolution Advisor Renee Watkins is a seasoned HR professional with a diverse background in Human Resource. Renee provides CAI members with practical advice in a wide range of human resource functions including conflict resolution, compliance and regulatory issues, and employee relations.