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Disability, Leave & Health Management Blog Offering Practical Guidance to Employers

Who Cares? A Son Deciding Whether to Remove His Mother From Life Support Cares

Courts have struggled to determine who “cares for” a covered family member under the FMLA and who seeks leave for compassionate reasons which fall short of the “caring for requirement. See, e.g., Who Cares, Where? ; Who Cares? And Who Merely Assists Under the FMLA? The Sixth Circuit has held that an employee who sought leave to go to the hospital to decide with his sister whether his mother should continue on life support was “caring for” his mother under the FMLA. The Court cited the FMLA regulation which states that family members are entitled to leave “to make arrangements for changes in care….”   Romans v. Michigan Dep’t of Human Services (6th Cir. February 16, 2012).

In reversing summary judgment for the employer, the Court also rejected the district court’s holding that because plaintiff’s sister was at the hospital caring for the mother, the plaintiff was not entitled to FMLA leave as well. The Court stated that "[t]o be sure, [deciding whether to remove the mother from life support] is the kind of decision…that few people would relish making without the help of other family members, and the regulations do not force them to do so.”