Woman fired after she donates kidney, FMLA may not apply

A 41-year-old woman took time away from her employer in order to donate one of her kidneys to her 22-year-old son. The woman believed she would be able to return to her job, but the company the woman worked for fired her for taking too much leave time. Unfortunately, the Family and Medical Leave Act may not apply to the woman’s situation because the woman’s employer may not employ enough workers for it to be applicable. Even though she is currently jobless, the woman says she would make the choice to help her son all over again.

As in Wisconsin, workers in Pennsylvania face tough decisions. The 41-year-old woman from Philadelphia initially believed she was making an easy choice to help her son when her employer told her that taking leave would not be an issue. Later, the choice became difficult.

The 41-year-old woman was an employee at a mechanic’s school and worked in the school’s admissions office. The woman’s son needed a kidney transplant because his kidney failed at the beginning of the year. After much medical preparation for the kidney transplant, the woman informed her employer that she would need leave time beginning on July 19 and that the kidney transplant would be performed on July 21.

The recovery time period for the kidney transplant requires 6 to 8 weeks, but the employer only agreed to a period of unpaid leave up to September 1. The woman was told on her last day of work that she could return to her job after leave; however, later in the day the employer asked the woman to sign a letter that stated her job would not be secure. The woman told her employer, “I am not abandoning my job. I am saving my son’s life.”

After a superior told the woman she would likely be able to return to her job, she signed the letter. After the surgery the woman experienced severe back pain and informed her employer she would not be able to return to work by September 1. She later learned her position had been filled. The woman is now out of work.

According to a clinical law professor at Penn State University, the Family and Medical Leave Act may not apply to the woman’s situation because her former employer may have less than 50 employees. The woman may be able to find relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act or state law.

Source: abcnews.com, “Philadelphia woman fired for donating kidney to son,” Susanna Kim, Sept. 13, 2011

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