Some Pennsylvania employees might be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for people who are not legally or biologically their parent or child if the relationship has been like that of parent and child. "In loco parentis" refers to this type of relationship, and it may be required for an employer to establish whether this relationship exists before approving or denying leave.
For example, in one case, a court ruled that an employer had an obligation to inform an employee that he had a right to seek FMLA leave on the basis of an "in loco parentis" relationship and to ask for additional information about the relationship. The man had requested leave to care for his grandfather but had not specified the nature of their relationship, and his leave request was denied. However, the man's grandfather had raised him from the age of four to fourteen.
However, an employee might be required to provide additional information. A woman who referred to her aunt as her "adopted mother" and "stepmother" was denied FMLA leave because she failed to bring in report cards signed by her aunt. The court sided with the employer in that case since the woman did not provide the requested information to support her claim.
People who have been denied FMLA leave under these or other circumstances or who feels they are facing retaliation for requesting FMLA leave might want to speak to an attorney about their rights. The laws around FMLA leave can be complex, and in some cases, such as that of "in loco parentis", an employer might not realize that an employee is eligible for leave. However, in other cases, an employer might be counting on an employee's lack of familiarity with their rights, and a lawsuit might be necessary.