Employment-More Lessons From Erdman

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the Third Circuit’s decision in Erdman v.Nationwide Insurance Company, 07-3796 (3rd Cir. 2009) (see my blog of September 25). This case has two other aspects worth noting.

First, the Court faced the question of whether the plaintiff had stated a claim that her termination violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), since the employer denied her leave to care for her disabled daughter. In answering this question, the Court noted that the ADA’s “association provision” prohibits excluding or otherwise denying equal jobs or benefits to an employee, because of the known disability of an individual with whom the employee is known to have a relationship or association. Also, under the ADA, an employer’s refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation, such as a leave of absence, to a disabled employee may violate the ADA. However, the Court ruled that the ADA’s association provision does not obligate an employer to provide a leave to or otherwise accommodate the schedule of an employee with a disabled relative. Thus, the plaintiff has not stated an ADA claim. The Court noted that, if the employer had fired the plaintiff because she had a disabled daughter, the plaintiff would have an ADA claim. However, the Court concluded that the plaintiff had not been fired for that reason.

The Court also faced the question of whether the plaintiff had accumulated sufficient hours-1250 hours are needed- to qualify for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”). This question stemmed from the problem that the plaintiff had not accumulated enough hours, unless the hours which the plaintiff earned by working at home are taken into account. Citing the FMLA regulations and a Second Circuit case (29 C.F.R. § 785.11 and 12; Holzapfel v. Town of Newburgh, 145 F.3d 516, 524 (2d Cir. 1998)), the Court said that, for purposes of determining the number of an employee’s hours for FMLA purposes, all work that the employer knows or has reason to believe is being performed is taken into account. Hours worked off-site or beyond an employee’s regular schedule count if the employer knows or has reason to believe that an employee is continuing to work the extra hours. The employer need not have actual knowledge of such off-site work; constructive knowledge will suffice. The Court ruled that, in this case, the plaintiff had introduced enough evidence of the employer’s constructive knowledge of the plaintiff’s work at home to avoid summary judgment against her for not having enough hours for FMLA leave.