ILNews

Leave act specific to alcoholism treatment

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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An Indiana man sued his former employer for firing him on grounds that he missed too much work, arguing that he was covered by the federal medical leave act because he was getting treatment for alcoholism.

But the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined today that the Family and Medical Leave Act doesn't protect workers from being dismissed. Because he missed three days of work just prior to being admitted for alcoholism treatment and that time combined with previous absences was enough for his employer to dismiss him, the court ruled.

The unanimous three-judge ruling in Richard L. Darst, as Trustee for the Bankruptcy Estate of Krzysztof Chalimoniuk v. Interstate Brands Corp. and Tonia Gordon, No. 04-2460, affirms the previous judgment from U.S. District Judge John D. Tinder in Indianapolis, who'd granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

A footnote in the opinion shows that during the course of the litigation, Chalimoniuk filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and his termination claim became part of the bankruptcy estate. Trustee Darst has continued to prosecute this on behalf of the estate.

Chalimoniuk had worked at the baked goods manufacturer for 15 years before being dismissed in 2000 for excessive absenteeism. The employer operated on a point system, with 24 or more resulting in discharge. When this case's set of facts began, Chalimoniuk had a cutoff of 32 points, and he'd accumulated 23 already.

His situation began July 29, 2000, when he relapsed and missed three days of work. During those three days, he called his doctor and set up his admission to a treatment facility where he stayed Aug. 4-10 of that year. He filled out employment paperwork for leave starting July 29 and ending Aug. 11, but the employer's human resources manager Gordon investigated that date and determined the prior three days didn't fall under the act.

At issue in the case was whether his three days of missed work prior to being hospitalized classified as "treatment" under the FMLA, which allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year for various reasons, such as a "serious health condition" that the Department of Labor states can apply to substance abuse treatment.

"On the other hand, absence because of the employee's use of the substance, rather than for treatment, does not qualify for FMLA leave," Circuit Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner wrote, noting that Chalimoniuk provided no evidence that he was admitted to any facility for treatment on those three days. "Because he had exceeded the number of points allowable under IBC's absenteeism policy, the defendants were free to terminate his employment without running afoul of the FMLA."
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  1. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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