Leave in Las Vegas: Does vacation with dying mom count as FMLA time?

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The case: Beverly was the sole caregiver for her mother, who was diagnosed with end-stage heart failure. A charitable group for terminally ill people gave her mother a six-day trip to Las Vegas. Beverly requested FMLA leave to join her mom, but her employer said “no.” Beverly went anyway, enjoying shopping, dining and playing the slots. Her mom received no medical care in Vegas. Beverly was terminated for unauthorized absences. She sued, saying that trip should be eligible for FMLA leave.

The ruling: A federal appeals court sided with Beverly, saying it didn’t matter where she was providing care to her seriously ill mother, as long as she was providing it during that time. The judge pointed to FMLA regulations that allow employees to take leave to “care for”—not necessarily provide treatment for—a family member suffering a serious condition.

The court said, “So long as the employee provides care to the family member, where the care takes place has no bearing on whether the employee receives FMLA protection.”

Note: This decision differed from rulings in other circuits that required away-from-home FMLA leave to involve some type of participation in ongoing medical treatment. The Supreme Court may eventually need to decide this issue. (Ballard v. Chicago Park District, 7th Cir.)

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