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. Based on several recent Indy Star articles, I would agree that being a case worker would be really hard. You would see the worst of humanity on a daily basis; and when things go wrong guess who gets blamed??!! Not biological parent!! Best of luck to those who entered that line of work.

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  3. Don't believe me, listen to Pacino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z6bC9w9cH-M

  4. Law school is social control the goal to produce a social product. As such it began after the Revolution and has nearly ruined us to this day: "“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States which is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question. Hence all parties are obliged to borrow, in their daily controversies, the ideas, and even the language, peculiar to judicial proceedings. As most public men [i.e., politicians] are, or have been, legal practitioners, they introduce the customs and technicalities of their profession into the management of public affairs. The jury extends this habitude to all classes. The language of the law thus becomes, in some measure, a vulgar tongue; the spirit of the law, which is produced in the schools and courts of justice, gradually penetrates beyond their walls into the bosom of society, where it descends to the lowest classes, so that at last the whole people contract the habits and the tastes of the judicial magistrate.” ? Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

  5. Attorney? Really? Or is it former attorney? Status with the Ind St Ct? Status with federal court, with SCOTUS? This is a legal newspaper, or should I look elsewhere?

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