Inability To Speak In Public Does Not Justify Officer’s FMLA Request

Catherine Lundy was a police officer with the Town of Brighton, New York. After Lundy filed for service-connected disability, she filed a lawsuit against the Town alleging, in part, that the Town violated her rights under the Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Lundy’s FMLA claim was that the Town failed to offer her FMLA leave when she was “compelled to use vacation time, rather than sick time, to cover an absence allegedly caused by a psychological impairment.” The crux of Lundy’s claim was that her psychologist and primary health care physician had both stated that she should not be required to attend the Instructor Development training to which she had been assigned, or engage in public speaking. Lundy sought FMLA leave for the two-day period of the training.

A federal court dismissed Lundy’s FMLA lawsuit. The Court recited the provisions of the FMLA that employees are only allowed to take leave for a “serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the job.”

A serious health condition can either be a condition that results in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days, or a chronic serious health condition which continues over a period of time and may cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity.

The Court saw two problems with Lundy’s claim. First, the Court noted that Lundy “appears to allege an absence from work of only two days for a condition that is not alleged to be chronic or recurring. As such, Lundy has failed to allege a serious health condition sufficient to merit FMLA leave.

“Furthermore, as a practical matter, Lundy’s inability to attend Instructor Development training or engage in public speaking would have operated only to disqualify her from that particular assignment. Lundy does not allege, and her doctors did not opine, that her inability to attend the training or make public speeches rendered her unable to perform any of the essential functions of her position as a police officer.”

Lundy v. Town of Brighton, 2007 WL 3312475 (W.D.N.Y. 2007).

This article appears in the January 2008 issue