Is travel to Las Vegas

with ill parent

FMLA leave?


Seventh Circuit votes “yes”

           The plaintiff in Ballard v Chicago Park District __F3rd__, No. 13-1445 (7th Cir. 2014) had a mother with a terminal heart condition.  The parent had always wanted to visit Las Vegas and a charity came through in 2008 with funding to help her get her wish.  Ballard requested FMLA leave from the CPD to accompany her mother to Nevada, but the employer declined.  Ballard went anyway, for six days.  Although the two saw some sights while there, most of Ballard’s care entailed giving her mother medications, tending to her meals, and preparing her for bed.

           When Ballard was dismissed upon her return to Chicago, she sued under the FMLA. Recently the Seventh Circuit upheld the trial court’s denial of summary judgment, reasoning that the location of the care is not the issue in evaluating FMLA leave.

           In its analysis the court noted that although “care” in the context of caring for a parent (or child or spouse) is not defined, it should be accorded an expansive construction.  Although other circuit courts have ruled contra, the Seventh Circuit declined to require the employee caregiver to participate in ongoing medical treatment.  “The relevant rule,” the court wrote, “says that, so long as the employee attends to a family member's basic medical, hygienic, or nutritional needs, that employee is caring for the family member, even if that care is not part of ongoing treatment of the condition.” 

           The court saw no reason to differentiate between care given at home or away from home.