Legal Briefing: FMLA for a Vacay Might Be OK

By Mark Kobata

Apr. 9, 2014

Beverly Ballard, who worked for the Chicago Park District since 1983, took intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act time off to care for her mother after her mother was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in 2006. In 2007, a nonprofit organization arranged for Ballard’s family to travel to Las Vegas on her mother’s wish. The park district denied Ballard’s request for FMLA leave in connection with the trip, and when Ballard went anyway, she was fired.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois denied the park district’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Ballard cared for her mother while on the trip.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision, and held that FMLA and U.S. Labor Department regulations do not require ongoing medical treatment to be a part of the care provided in order to qualify for FMLA leave since “care” is defined “expansively to include ‘physical and psychological care’ — again without any geographic limitation.” Ballard v. Chicago Park District, 2014 BL 23062, 7th Circuit, No. 13-1445 (Jan. 28, 2014).

Impact: An employee may be eligible for FMLA leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition even when not obtaining medical treatment.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

Mark Kobata and Marty Denis are partners at the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Beverly Hills, California, and Chicago.

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