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FMLA Lawyer Answers: Can I Be Fired For Taking Medical Leave?

| Jan 31, 2014 | family medical leave claims |

FMLA Attorney Top Answer: Can I travel while on FMLA medical leave? What should I do if my boss fires me for taking medical leave? Can my job deny my medical leave request?

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In December, our employment attorneys posted a blog about an FLMA Road trip. Specifically, we discussed Ballard v. Chicago Park District, a decision by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. In that case, Beverly Ballard was an employee on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Sarah Ballard, the employee’s mother, suffered end-stage congestive heart failure and was diagnosed with a very short time to live. Beverly was her mother’s primary care giver. The Fairygodmother Foundation gave Sarah a six-day trip trip to Las Vegas and Beverly sought FMLA leave for the to care for her mom on the trip. But, her employer, the Chicago Park District, rejected the FMLA request. Beverly went anyways. According to Beverly, they gambled, shopped and ate at nice restaurants, but did not seek professional medical care. The District Court held that under the FMLA, employees may travel on vacation with an immediate family member to care for them. An appeal followed.

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Back in our December 2012 blog, we stated “Hopefully, the court of appeals will affirm.” And, it did. This month, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in a strong victory for employees. The Court held in pertinent part:

One problem with the Park District’s argument is that § 2612(a)(1)(C) speaks in terms of “care,” not “treatment.” … Furthermore, the Park District does not explain why participation in ongoing treatment is required when the employee provides awayfromhome care, but not when she provides athome care. Certainly we see no textual basis for that distinction in the statute. … Another problem is that the FMLA’s text does not restrict care to a particular place or geographic location. For instance, it does not say that an employee is entitled to time off “to care at home for” a family member. The only limitation it places on care is that the family member must have a serious health condition. We are reluctant, without good reason, to read in another limitation that Congress has not provided. Still, the FMLA does not define “care,” so perhaps there is room to disagree about whether Ballard can be said to have cared for her mother in Las Vegas. We therefore turn to the Department of Labor’s regulations to clear away any lurking ambiguity. … The first sentence defines “care” expansively to include “physical and psychological care”— again without any geographic limitation.

Let’s hope more courts follow this trend.

If you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The phone number for FMLA help is 866-797-6040. While you focus on your family medical needs, let our FLMA attorneys focus on your medical leave rights.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this medical leave page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get medical leave under the FMLA?”, “what should I do when my job won’t give me medical leave?”, “can my boss deny me medical leave?” or “is my employer allowed to…?”, your best option is to contact an Ohio medical leave attorney to obtain advice with respect to FMLA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, LLC, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.