Workers in Ohio and throughout the country have the right to job protection and unpaid leave in certain medical and family emergencies according to provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA. One noteworthy case involving Thurston Foods Inc. brought up the issue of whether asthma attacks qualify for protection under the law. The court found that in this circumstance, asthma was indeed protected under the provisions of the FMLA.
The Thurston Foods Inc. case involved an employee who worked as a router and distributor while suffering from walking pneumonia. When the employee returned to work after a two-day absence, their request for a reduced work schedule to recover from illness was refused. A short time later, the employee suffered an asthma attack and went to the emergency room. Upon return, the employee refused to work a full schedule and was discharged by the company.
The employee in this case filed both retaliation and interference claims against their employer for violation of the FMLA. The court found in favor of the plaintiff on both counts. Seeking emergency medical treatment was protected by the FMLA, and the employer's demands on the employee to work a full shift even after the asthma attack counted as interference. Thurston Foods Inc's scheduling demands had a "chilling affect" on the plaintiff's ability to exercise their rights.
Employees who believe their Family Medical Leave Act rights have been violated following an asthma attack or other emergency situation may wish to consult an attorney. A lawyer may help their client figure out whether their situation qualifies under the FMLA and whether filing a claim is in their best interest.