In FMLA "caring for" cases, there is usually no dispute that the cared-for relative has a serious health condition. We have posted here, here and here about such cases.

But in Mezu v. Morgan State University, (D.Md July 29, 2013), that was precisely the issue. The plaintiff claimed her employer interfered with her FMLA rights by its delay in responding to, and denial of, her FMLA leave request to care for her daughter following the daughter’s emergency brain surgery for a ruptured brain aneurysm. The employer claimed the plaintiff was not entitled to FMLA leave because the daughter did not have a serious health condition.

Upon discharge from the hospital, the daughter needed assistance with numerous activities of daily living. The decision suggests the daughter stayed at her parents’ home rather than at her marital home with her husband and child after discharge from the hospital.

In support of its position that the daughter did not have a serious health condition, the mom’s employer noted that a month after surgery, the daughter returned to her marital home and, four days later, attended her parents’ anniversary celebration, and then stayed at the parents’ home for six days to assist in preparing for her sister’s wedding. The employer also relied on a doctor’s note about six weeks after the daughter’s discharge from the hospital stating that the daughter was able to drive 

The court denied the motions for summary judgment which had been filed by both parties.  The court noted that while there may be disputes of fact as to exactly how long the daughter experienced a serious health condition that made her incapable of self-care, “at least for a significant period of time after the surgery, she needed her mother’s assistance.” 

The Court also noted that her employer’s “delay in effectuating the [FMLA] leave” by not timely advising her of her incomplete healthcare certification may have violated the FMLA and that her employer’s denial of her leave may have violated the FMLA regulation which prohibits an employer from “discouraging an employee from using [FMLA] leave.”