FMLA Does Not Mean Vacation On Demand

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles covered employees to unpaid leave to deal with certain family and medical illnesses.  As one employee learned the hard way, however, the law does not guarantee vacation on demand.  Hurley v. Kent of Naples, Inc., 2:10-cv-00334-JES (11th Cir. Mar. 20, 2014).  The employee suffered from depression, and following general medical advice encouraging him to relax more he started out the new year by scheduling 11 weeks of vacation scattered throughout the year.  The lower court awarded the employee over one million dollars$$$$ in damages when the employee claimed he was fired for trying to schedule FMLA leave.  On appeal, however, the court found for the employer and held that because the leave was not for incapacity or treatment (he was not asking for leave for medical procedures, he just wanted to make sure he could take a lot of breaks from work!) the leave was not FMLA-protected and the termination was not retaliatory.  Keep in mind that — while not argued here — it is possible that the leave could possibly have been construed as an accommodation under the American’s with Disability Act (ADA).  Just another reminder to proceed with extreme caution when dealing with employees who may be protected under the FMLA, ADA or other related law.