Case name: Kleinser v. Bay Park Community Hospital, No. 3:10 CV 2211 (N.D. Ohio 06/23/11).
The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio granted summary judgment to a hospital on a nurse's Family and Medical Leave Act claims.
What it means:
An employer may place a worker on involuntary continuous FMLA leave so long as she has a serious health condition that prevents her from performing an essential function of her position.
A nurse for a hospital suffered a work-related injury to her neck and shoulder. Because of this, she was limited to occasional lifting of no more than 20 pounds. Her job required the ability to lift up to 50 pounds. She was placed on light-duty work in the hospital's transitional work program. She was also approved for intermittent FMLA leave. Later, after determining that her progress did not meet the transitional program's standard for continued light-duty assignment, she was removed from light duty and placed on continuous FMLA leave.
After her leave expired, the hospital terminated her. The nurse sued under the FMLA, alleging interference. The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Ohio granted summary judgment to the hospital.
The court rejected the nurse's argument that intermittent leave is an "unfettered right" under the FMLA. It explained that FMLA regulations specify that intermittent leave should "best accommodate" the medical needs of the employee. Furthermore, "the contours of an asserted entitlement to intermittent leave are necessarily determined by medical documentation." If an employee cannot perform the position's essential functions, the employer may require continuous leave.
The court explained that the nurse's ability to choose intermittent leave should be tied to the requirements of her original position and not the light-duty assignment. The light-duty position was temporary and "more closely resemble[d] the variety of reasonable accommodations" the Americans with Disabilities Act would require.
The nurse's argument that she should have been returned to light-duty work at the end of her FMLA leave also failed. The court explained that the FMLA did not require the hospital to continue the nurse in the light-duty position because she could not perform an essential function of her position.
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September 6, 2011
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