Illinois Firm Didn't Run Afoul of FMLA in Firing

November 6, 2003 ( - An employer did not violate the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when it fired a worker after he took a day off from work to accompany his injured stepfather to the hospital, a federal judge ruled in an Illinois case.

>The judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois agreed with the company that Charles Ausler’s absence – his twelfth unexcused absence from work – was not protected by the FMLA, according to Thompson Publishing.

>Engineered Polymer Solutions had a policy of terminating employees after 12 unexcused absences. As of May 24, 2001, Ausler had accumulated 11 unexcused absences. On May 25, Ausler’s stepfather had an automobile accident and Ausler took the day off to go to the hospital with him. Although Ausler brought his employer a note from a nurse at the hospital, Ausler was told that he would be terminated unless he could provide an excuse that would qualify the absence as excused under the employer’s attendance policy.

>Accordingly, Ausler had the emergency room doctor who treated his stepfather write a note explaining Ausler’s absence. Despite the fact that Ausler had that note, his employer still terminated him because it concluded that his absence did not qualify for FMLA leave. The employer told Ausler that it would reinstate him if he could provide additional certification before October 31, 2001, showing that his absence was covered by the FMLA.

>Because Ausler’s stepfather was not admitted to the hospital and did not require continuing treatment for his injuries, the court found that Engineered Polymer Solutions properly decided that Ausler’s absence did not qualify.

The case is Ausler v. Engineered Polymer Solutions, N.D. Ill., No. 01 C 50439, July 29, 2003.