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CHICAGO-A former employee of the city of Fort Wayne, Ind., may be entitled to a federal family and medical leave if a lower court determines her multiple medical problems constitute "a serious health condition."
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 27 vacated a lower court's finding that Katherine Price's medical problems did not constitute "a serious health condition" and were reasonable grounds for her 1994 dismissal for excessive absences.
The appeals court also sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana for further proceedings.
Ms. Price's diagnosed ailments included hypertension and hyperthyroidism; periodic headaches; stress related to her job and her concern over the possible recurrence of cancer, stemming from a benign infected arm cyst. She was seeing her personal physician for some but not all of those ailments.
The appeals court also threw out the city's attempt to challenge Ms. Price's eligibility for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act on the grounds that she did not expressly ask for it. The appeals court said it is "a question of fact whether her notice to the city was sufficiently timely to trigger an FMLA inquiry," meaning a jury must determine that.
In addition, the appeals court excluded from consideration the opinion of a second physician because he was associated with the city rather than independent, as the law requires.
The city does not plan to appeal the federal court decision, said J. Timothy McCaulay, an attorney representing the city who practices with the firm of Helmke, Beams, Boyer & Wagner in Fort Wayne.