Judge: Worker Should Have Gotten Family Leave

June 16, 2003 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A former postal worker should have been granted Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to care for her daughter, who had a Caesarean delivery, according to a federal judge.

>The judge, in the US District Court for Southern Indiana, however, refused to throw out the worker’s discharge, finding that it was based on her longstanding absenteeism, rather than on her request for FMLA leave.

>Jeanne Blackburn sued the US Postal Service (USPS) when it denied her request for FMLA leave to care for her 19-year-old daughter Amanda after Caesarean surgery, and then fired her. Blackburn had a record of spotty attendance stretching back over four years before she asked for leave to attend to her daughter in late 1999, having received four letters of warning and three notices of suspension for absenteeism between January 1995 and November 1999.

>The court found, however, that Amanda’s condition did qualify her mother for FMLA leave to care for her grown child. While courts “typically do not consider pregnancy alone to be a serious medical condition,” as USPS argued, the court noted that, “the case before us does not deal with the standard discomforts associated with pregnancy, but instead involves the incapacity associated with and immediately following a delivery, specifically a surgically-facilitated delivery. This court has previously expressed the presumption,” the court continued, “that ‘any incapacity due to pregnancy’ — which might, after all, include the delivery itself — is a serious health condition … [and] that an employee is entitled to leave for it.”

>The court further found that — although Blackburn was entitled to take leave to care for her grown child with a serious health condition, her discharge was not the result of discrimination or interference with her rights.

The case is Blackburn v. Potter, S.D. Ind., No. IP01-1645-C-B/S, March 31, 2003.