In order to satisfy the Family and Medical Leave Act’s “overnight stay” requirement, an employee must be in the hospital “for a substantial period of time from one calendar day to the next calendar day as measured by the individual’s time of admission and time of discharge,” according to the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court also noted, but did not rule, that at least eight hours would have been an appropriate amount of time under the circumstances to meet the “substantial period of time” requirement. Bonkowski v. Oberg Indus., Inc., No. 14-1239, 2015 WL 2444503 (3d Cir. May 22, 2015).
The plaintiff in the case, Jeffrey Bonkowski, sued his employer, Oberg Industries, Inc., claiming that he was wrongfully terminated for exercising his rights under the FMLA. Bonkowski claimed that he was terminated in violation of the FMLA after he was hospitalized in November 2011 for chest pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath. He arrived at the hospital shortly before midnight on November 14, but he was not admitted until after midnight on November 15. He was released in the evening of the same day. The next day, on November 16, Bonkowski was terminated for walking off the job. Oberg Industries successfully argued that Bonkowski did not have a “serious health condition” as required by the FMLA because he did not have an “overnight stay” in the hospital. As “overnight stay” is not defined by Department of Labor’s regulations, the Court held that the appropriate test was whether Bonkowski was in the hospital “for a substantial period of time from one calendar day to the next calendar day as measured by the individual’s time of admission and time of discharge.” Since Bonkowski was not admitted to the hospital until after midnight on November 15, 2011 and he was discharged during the evening of the same day, the Court held that Bonkowski’s hospital stay did not constitute an “overnight stay” within the meaning of the FMLA and affirmed summary judgment for the employer.