An employee tells you she’s taking a trip to Vegas with her terminally ill mother. The purpose of the trip is to fulfill her mom’s “bucket list.” Is the leave covered by the FMLA? Absolutely, according to a recent Seventh Circuit case. But the facts were somewhat unique – the employee was the primary caretaker of her mother: she lived with her, bathed and dressed her, and administered her medication. She continued to do all these things in Vegas, a place her mother had always wanted to visit. Displeased with her 6-day absence, her employer terminated her, taking the position the trip was not covered by the FMLA because it was not related to ongoing medical treatment. The court disagreed, as the employee continued to “care for” her mother in Vegas, even though there was no medical treatment there.
A couple of lessons here: Be careful when denying FMLA leave. The employer may have considered this a boondoggle, but the court took a different view. Also, remember the FMLA is a floor. An employer can always do more. For an employee who single-handedly takes care of her dying mother, pulling the termination trigger seems a little heartless.
(The case is Ballard v. Chicago Park District)