A death in the family is not automatic grounds for FMLA coverage. An employee must notify his or her employer that they need leave for an FMLA-covered condition. An employee's request for bereavement leave to make funeral arrangements and wrap up the affairs of his deceased brother failed to put the employer on notice that the employee was requesting FMLA leave. To be covered by the FMLA, the employee needed to tie his request for bereavement leave to address his own serious health condition (e.g., depression), or the needs of a spouse, parent, son, or daughter.
In Hoban v. WBNCC Joint Venture, No. 06-13142, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25407 (E.D.Mich. April 5, 2007), the employee called in and asked for leave to take "care of personal needs with my brother's body. We're having a hard time getting his body. I've got to come up with $ 1600 to pay off some debts with him. If there is a question or problem, please give me a call." The Court found that the notice failed to reasonably apprise the employer that the leave might be covered by the FMLA due to a "serious health condition."
In so holding, the Court distinguished the case from the situation in Stubl v. T.A. Sysm., Inc., 984 F. Supp. 1075 (E.D.Mich. 1997). In Stubl, the court found that the employee provided sufficient information to alert the employer that the leave might be FMLA-qualifying. There, the the employee stated that "I am taking this leave of absence based on my personal loss caused by the death of Keith Jr. with regards to my personal health." The Court reasoned that the notice in Stubl was sufficient because the employee tied his need for leave to his own physical or mental condition as a result of the death of a family m member.
Comment: Bereavement for the death of a family member is not automatically covered by the FMLA. To invoke the protections of the FMLA, an eligible employee must provide his or her employer with adequate notice that leave is needed for a reason covered by the FMLA. To do so, an employee need not invoke the FMLA by name. However, the employee must provide sufficient information to alert the employer that the need for leave might be covered by the FMLA. Where bereavement leave is involved, an employee, for example, may need FMLA leave because they are depressed and that depression meets the definition of an FMLA-covered s"serious health condition." Similarly, the employee may need leave "to care for" a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is suffering, physically or mentally, as a result of the death of a loved one. Wrapping up the affairs of the deceased is not an FMLA-covered "serious health condition" for purposes of job-protected leave.