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Price v. City Of Fort Wayne

June 27, 1997

KATHERINE L. PRICE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

CITY OF FORT WAYNE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Fort Wayne Division. No. 95 C 249--William C. Lee, Chief Judge.

Before POSNER, Chief Judge, and CUDAHY and ROVNER, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED NOVEMBER 5, 1996

DECIDED JUNE 27, 1997

In 1993 Congress passed, and the President signed, the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA or Act). Pub. L. 103-3, Feb. 5, 1993, 107 Stat. 6. Congress found that the Act was needed to help balance the burden of caretaking among family members and also to balance the demands of the workplace with the demands of the family. See 29 U.S.C. sec. 2601. Divisions of labor along gender lines were recognized as a powerful force in the American family affecting, in particular, the working lives of women. Congress sought to mandate a flexible leave allotment for medical and family reasons for all men and women working at least 1250 hours a year at firms employing 50 or more employees during at least 20 weeks of the year. See 29 U.S.C. sec. 2611(2), (4).

The goal was not to supplant employer-established sick leave and personal leave policies, but to provide leave for more uncommon and, presumably, time-consuming events such as having or adopting a child or suffering from what is termed a "serious health condition." And all this was to be accomplished with the assurance that an employee's job, or an equivalent one, would be waiting upon his or her return. It is the "serious health condition" with which we are concerned here. The court below held that an assemblage of diagnoses including elevated blood pressure, hyperthyroidism, back pain, severe headaches, sinusitis, infected cyst, sore throat, swelling throat, coughing and feelings of stress and depression could not, as a matter of law, constitute a "serious health condition." We find that, while these conditions in this case may not rise to the level of a "serious medical condition" as a matter of fact (a question necessarily left for the finder of fact), they are not barred from doing so as a matter of law.

Katherine Price worked for the City of Fort Wayne Department of Neighborhoods and Citizens Advocate from 1986 until 1994 when she was terminated for excessive absences. This case was pursued originally under a number of legal frameworks against a number of persons. Only the FMLA claim against the City of Fort Wayne (City) remains before us. The district court granted the City's motion for summary judgment, finding that Price did not suffer from a "serious health condition" and thus was not afforded the protections of the FMLA. We review de novo and vacate.

I. Serious Health Condition

The FMLA defines a "serious health condition" as "an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves--(A) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or (B) continuing treatment by a health care provider." 29 U.S.C. sec. 2611(11). The Department of Labor regulations *fn1 have sought to answer the question "What is a 'serious health condition' . . ." in the following way:

(a) For purposes of FMLA, "serious health condition" entitling an employee to FMLA leave means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:

(1) Inpatient care . . . including any period of incapacity . . . or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care; or

(2) Continuing treatment by a health care provider. A serious health condition involving continuing treatment by a health care provider includes any one or more of the following:

(i) A period of incapacity . . . of more than three consecutive calendar days, and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to ...


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