Ask Sheri

Properly Administering FMLA

Feb 8th, 2016

One of our employees recently asked to take time off to care for their ill father-in-law and requested the time under Family Medical Leave (FML). Being this is an "in-law" and not their own father, can I deny this time under the law? Our organization is Wisconsin-based.

Sheri's Response

When reviewing the federal FMLA regulations, covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave (during any 12-month period) for one one or more of the following reasons: birth/care of the newborn child of the employee; for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care; to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition; or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. One additional provision became effective on January 16, 2009, relative to new military family entitlements per the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008. Please view the following website for further details:

Per your specific question, the State of Wisconsin has extended the parent definition under the act from biological to either biological parent or parent-in-law. Wis. Stat. 103.10 (1) (f) states "Parent" means a natural parent, foster parent, treatment foster parent, adoptive parent, step-parent, or an employee's spouse. However, it further states that no more than two weeks can be taken for family leave under this particular definition above. Relative to paperwork, the employee will still need to complete the necessary certification forms to validate their father-in-law's serious health condition. As you know, this leave entitlement is unpaid, however your employee can choose to substitute any paid time (personal or vacation) for any part or all of their leave, depending on their particular balance in the bank. The moral of the story is, employers should review both federal and state regulations regarding any employee entitlement, as the law mandates the employer offer whichever is greater.