Does Not Qualify a Worker for Leave

In the recent case of Pang v. Beverly Hospital, 2000 WL 366294 (2000), the California Court of Appeal held that a worker is not entitled to take time off to help an elderly parent move to a new home under California’s Family Rights Act (CalFRA) because this does not constitute caring for a parent within the meaning of the act.

Marjorie Pang’s mother suffered from numerous ailments, including high blood pressure, arthritis, circulatory problems, and a heart condition. She also suffered from balance problems as a result of a stroke a few years before, and she had neck pain and immobility of one arm due to a reverse curvature of her neckbones. The mother was periodically incapacitated by these conditions for more than three days at a time and was under the continuing supervision of a health care provider as a result. However, her mother never lived in a nursing home and never hired a nurse to assist her at home. In late May of 1996, Pang notified her employer, Beverly Hospital, that she would soon have to go to New York to help her mother move from one home to another. On June 4, 1996, Pang told the hospital that she needed to leave for New York that day. The hospital fired Pang, claiming that she had abandoned her job.

Pang sued the hospital claiming that the termination of her employment was in violation of her right to take a family care leave under CalFRA. The lower court dismissed the case, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that Pang did not qualify for CalFRA leave because Pang did not provide or participate in medical care for her mother and there was no exigency for the move.

Even though the court sympathized with Pang’s contention that her mother was moving in order to accommodate her various medical conditions, she was not being placed in a nursing home and was not moving as part of a change in her care, as required under the CalFRA and its federal counterpart, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Pang testified that she was there to help pack her mother’s belongings and tell the movers where to place her mother’s furniture. Also, her mother wanted to move from a two-story house to a one-story apartment, so that she could continue in a living situation without care and treatment. This was not a situation where her mother was unable to care for her own basic medical, hygienic, or nutritional needs or safety, or was unable to transport herself to her doctor. The court therefore concluded that the caretaking services contemplated by CalFRA do not include helping a parent move to a new home under Pang’s circumstances.

Thus, employees who take time off to tend to the matters of a parent with a serious health condition, can only do so under CalFRA if the leave is necessary for the employee to care for the parent. Under the Pang decision, even if the employee is assisting the ailing parent in his or her living situation, the assistance must be urgently needed and the employee must be helping to provide or participate in the medical care of the parent in order to qualify for leave.