A “Love Boat” Cruise, Even If Approved Or Endorsed By A Doctor, Is Not Protected By The FMLA
Plaintiff had sought and been granted intermittent FMLA leave for the migraine headaches from which she regularly suffered. The following year, plaintiff submitted a doctor’s note excusing her from work for a pre-booked two-week sea cruise aboard the Love Boat for an “FMLA vacation.” When a family member innocently shared the news with plaintiff’s co-worker that plaintiff and her husband were on the Love Boat, the employer found out and contacted plaintiff’s physician, expressing “some concern” about the vacation and posing a number of questions about plaintiff’s medical condition.
After the physician responded that plaintiff was not incapable of working during the time she was on the cruise, plaintiff was terminated for taking “a pre-arranged cruise” that was not related to the FMLA, “inappropriately and in violation of agency policy.” Shortly after the termination, plaintiff’s doctor wrote a note to the employer endorsing the cruise, stating that “[a] common medical practice, which I followed, was to see if a break from the problem for a few weeks would ameliorate [her migraines] . . . I found that the separation did alleviate the problem, by the second week the headaches has dissipated and she was recharged, anxious to return to work . . . .”
Plaintiff filed an FMLA interference claim. A federal district court dismissed her claim in Fitterer v. State of Washington Employment Security Department, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 100670 (E.D. Wash. 2015), finding that plaintiff had presented no evidence that she was actually incapacitated from working while she was absent from work, and that there was no evidence that a two-week Love Boat cruise was medically necessary to deal with her migraines.