Adoption or Foster Care Placement of a Child, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

The following are three different cases related to the adoption clause of the Family Medical Leave Act (hereafter referred to as “FMLA”). The first case, Dotson vs. Pfizer, perhaps provides the most interesting intersection between adoption and rights as enunciated under the FMLA: Dotson was fired after having gone through a grueling adoption process in Russia.  The second case, Smith vs. Memorial Hospital Corp, reflects how the FMLA may be used as a cover to protect employees that engage in less than forthright behavior.  The third case, Kelley v. Crosfield, shows how protections originally conceptualized for adoption can also be extended to custody fights for one’s own biological children.

Dotson v. Pfizer is an interesting case exploring the complex interplay between the extensive time needed for an overseas adoption and how that may impact an employer’s view of an employee’s value.  Jim Dotson was a long-term pharmaceutical salesman for the firm Pfizer; a firm that he joined immediately after college and worked for nearly 20 years in a total of 8 different locations.  During a highly successful career as pharmaceutical salesman, Dotson decided to look into the possibility of adoption.  After months of contemplation, Dotson and his wife decided to adopt a child into the household.  Dotson and his wife performed research on adopting child from numerous countries that offered adoption, they decided to adopt a child from the former Soviet Union (Commonwealth of Independent States.  Dotson and his wife filled out the requisite paperwork to begin the adoption process; adopting a child from Russia requires two separate flights: the first flight is for an interview and to initially meet the child; the second flight is for the actual pick-up of the child.

During the adoption process, Dotson was fired from his job at Pfizer. The exact reason for Dotson’s firing is up for dispute: According to Dotson, he was fired for giving the orphanage samples of a Pfizer project to treat antibiotic infections.  Pfizer disputes this claim, and says that Dotson was fired for poor performance.  Whatever the reason for his dismissal, Dotson ultimately sued Pfizer for violating his rights under the FMLA; that is, Dotson asserted that his rights for leave from Pfizer were violated by their decision to fire him.  Pfizer claimed that the FMLA did not apply for Dotson’s case; that is, that Dotson’s dismissal had nothing to do with rights as established under the FMLA but with inappropriate distribution of pharmaceuticals.

After a period of time, the case ultimately came to trial.  At trial Dobson established that he obtained samples legally from sources within Pfizer.  Dobson’s lawyer also argued that the employer, not the employee was responsible for implementing the FMLA.  Dobson won the initial court case.  However, Pfizer was not pleased with the court’s interpretation of the FMLA and appealed the case to the Fourth District Appellate Court.  .  Pfizer lost the appellate case at the fourth circuit and appealed further to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, however, refused to hear the case.  Altogether, Dobson won his case and 2.1 million dollars in related compensation.

The second case is: Smith v. Memorial Hospital Corp which was ultimately tried at trial level and then as an appellate case in the Eight District.  Carrie Smith worked at a hospital in the fund raising division; her job was to provide receipt of private donation and to send and communicate thanks for the hospital donor.  During her duties at the hospital,

Smith began the process of adopting a child from the country of Romania.  Smith began the adoption process of filling out an application; she passed the first round which then required an in-person interview in Romania.

In order to make the trip, Smith filed for FMLA leave with her employer; the employer granted FMLA leave to pursue the adoption of the child in Romania.  After Smith went on the trip for the interview, however, there was a discovery that Smith had made several, critical mistakes on her job.  In particular, a co-worker when going through her office found that approximately 400 receipts worth roughly $400,000 had not been sent out to donors.  The trigger for the event came from a wealthy donor who had not received proper receipt for his gift.

According to Smith’s employer (Memorial Hospital System) this was enough to warrant Smith’s firing from here position.  Indeed, after Smith had returned from Romania in which she successfully passed the interview, the company confronted her about the unsent reciepts and decided to fire her.  Smith had a different account of the events: To her, the (mis) accounting of the reciepts was an innocent mistake and a pretext for a much larger crime: Taking off mandated time based on the FMLA.

After the case went to court, the hospital provided robust evidence that Ms. Smith’s behavior was a long-term phenomenon, not one limited to the time period in which she invoked rights under the FMLA.  After the case went to the jury, the court threw out Smith’s adoption claim under the FMLA.

The third case, and perhaps the most interesting application of the FMLA’s adoption clause, was Kelley v. Crosfield Catalysts, a case heard in Seventh Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals.  Dwayne Kelly, a laboratory technician for Crosfield, worked at the firm for roughly one year.  One day he received a call that a child, named Shneequa Forbes, would be taken by the Brooklyn Bureau of Child Welfare.  Kelly had reason to believe that the girl was his biological daughter, and thus applied for leave under relevant FMLA statutes to seek custody of a young girl for foster care or adoption.  In total, Kelly missed four days of work.    After Kelly missed the fourth day of work, Crosfield terminated his employment.

Kelley sued Crosfield for unlawful dismissal citing the protections afforded under the FMLA with his original complaint maintaining that his biological daughter was involved.  Crosfield argued that the protections under the FMLA, particularly those related to foster children and adoption, do not apply to the biological child.  After the initial complaint, Kelley amended his appeal to remove the biological relationship with his daughter- he merely claimed he had asked for leave for a matter relating to foster care and adoption.   Kelley lost the case at the trial on a procedural technicality: the court ruled based for Crosfield based on information presented in the original complaint.

On appeal, however, the appellate court offered a different reasoning in upholding Kelley’s claim that his absence was covered by the FMLA.  Indeed, Kelly’s amended claim argued that the FMLA allowed time off to seek custody of one’s biological child through adoption and foster care even if that individual enjoys no rights (currently) with respect to the child.  The lower court dismissed this amended  complaint stating that his activities for invoking FML:A rights were not commensurate with the implicit meanings of “adoption” of “foster care” in the statute.

Because the amended plead superseded the original plead, the district court threw out the original decision that the court ruled in Kelly’s favor.

Sources

Lexis Nexus. Kelly vs. Crosfield.  Accessed on June 27, 2012.

Lexis Nexus. Dotson vs. Pfizer.  Accessed on June 27, 2012.

Lexis Nexus. Smith vs. Memorial Hospitals.  Accessed on June 27, 2012.

Federal Court Register. Dotson vs. Pfizer.  Accessed on June 27, 2012

US Court Records. Smith vs. Memorial Hospitals.  Accessed on June 27, 2012.

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