Schaar v. Lehigh Valley Health Servs., Inc., 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 5172 (3d. Cir. Mar. 11, 2010)

The Third Circuit holds that an employee can establish that they suffered from a serious health condition through a combination of expert medical and lay testimony.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals held—in a matter of first impression—that a plaintiff can establish that they were incapacitated for three consecutive days and, therefore, suffered from a "serious health condition" pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act, through a combination of expert and lay testimony. The plaintiff was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection and was provided with a doctor's note that advised her employer that she would be out of work for two days. The plaintiff taped the note to her manager's door but failed to verbally call out of work. The plaintiff was previously scheduled to take a vacation day on the third day (a Friday), but testified that she felt ill that day and all weekend. When the plaintiff returned to work, she was counseled by her manager for failing to verbally advise her of her sick time and was eventually terminated for that offense and other performance-related issues. After her termination, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against her former employer, alleging interference and discrimination in violation of the FMLA. Her employer was granted summary judgment, as the court determined that the plaintiff failed to establish that she suffered from a "serious health condition" because she failed to present medical evidence that she was incapacitated for three days. In reversing the decision, the Third Circuit reasoned that, while the Department of Labor's regulations requires a "health care provider" to determine that an employee is "unable to perform the functions of the position," there is no support in the regulations to exclude all lay testimony regarding the length of the employee's incapacitation. However, the Third Circuit did note, contrary to other circuit courts, that some medical evidence is still necessary to show that the incapacitation was "due to" the serious health condition.

Case Law Alert - 2nd Qtr 2010