The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Caring for Adult Children

Reference Number: MTAS-860
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: May 22, 2017
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Family Medical Leave to Care for Adult Children

Typically when we think of parents taking FML to care for children we assume the eligible children are under 18 or permanently disabled. However, with the expansion to the scope of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) by the ADA Amendments Act, it is easier for an employee to take leave to care for an adult child who has a serious health condition and is incapable of selfcare under ADA.

Under the FMLA, a parent can take family leave (FML) to care for his or her adult children who are not in the military and are not veterans if the children are “incapable” of self-care or have a disability defined by ADA. Generally this means the adult child must require direct assistance or supervision providing self-care in three or more activities of daily living such as grooming, hygiene, bathing, dressing, and eating. These could also include instrumental activities of daily living such as essential errands, cooking, cleaning, shopping, transporting, paying bills, using communication devices, and maintaining a residence. There are many different disabilities and conditions that could deem an adult child incapable of self-care. It could be a serious accident, surgery, illness, or more permanent conditions such as developmental disabilities, Down syndrome, brain damage, paralysis, etc.

Temporary conditions or illnesses such as pregnancy-related restrictions or routine surgeries would likely not result in someone being “incapable of self-care” as defined by the regulations.

Because this is not a common issue addressed by the courts, your city should pay attention to case law and new developments in how FMLA and ADA intersect.

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