Best Ohio Medical Leave Attorney Answers: What are my Family Medical Leave Act Rights? Does FLMA leave cover vacations with sick family members? Can I use FMLA leave to care for a family member away from home? Does care under the FMLA include things other than medical treatments? How do I find a top FMLA lawyer in Cleveland?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., protects an employee from being fired because the employee or his family are recovering from a medical condition or tending to the needs of a new child. The Family and Medical Leave Act gives a covered employee job-protected time off of work to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Covered family members include spouses, parents, sons, and daughters. But, what does it mean “to care for” a family member? Some forms of care are obvious. FMLA clearly covers taking care of the family member’s everyday basic needs—for example ensuring your bedridden father is fed, bathed, and given his prescribed medications. FMLA also covers taking a family member to doctor’s appointments. What about trips to Las Vegas? Well, according to a recent federal court decision, Las Vegas vacations may be covered as well.
In Ballard v. Chicago Park District, the Seventh Circuit held that “care” under FMLA is broadly defined and can include “provid[ing] physical and psychological care to a terminally ill parent while that parent is traveling away from home.” Beverly Ballard was working for Chicago Park District. Beverly’s mother, Sarah, had end-stage congestive heart failure. Beverly was Sarah’s primary caregiver. Beverly was responsible for taking care of Sarah’s everyday needs, including cooking for her, administering medications, and bathing and dressing her. Sarah’s social worker met with Sarah to discuss “end-of-life goals,” one of which was a family trip to Las Vegas. Beverly requested unpaid leave under FMLA to join her mother on this trip. Unbeknownst to Beverly, Chicago Park District denied the request. Beverly went on the trip, where she continued to provide care for Sarah as well as participate with Sarah on typical tourist activities. Chicago Park District terminated Beverly for the unexcused absences incurred during the trip.
Beverly brought suit against Chicago Park District for denying her rights under FMLA. The question presented to the court was whether the leave requested by Beverly for the trip to Las Vegas was FMLA permitted time off to “care for” Sarah. The court held that it was. The court noted that FMLA does not restrict “care” to any geographic location. Beverly can be permitted leave to care for Sarah at home, but Beverly may also be permitted leave to care for Sarah in Las Vegas, or Florida, Maryland, even France. Just because Sarah is ill, she is not required to be a prisoner to her home. If she wants to travel, why shouldn’t she be allowed? And is she then supposed to forego the care needed for her survival? The court didn’t think so. The court also noted that “care” is not limited to treatment. Care can include “attend[ing] to a family member’s basic medical, hygienic, or nutritional needs.” As long as Beverly continue to cook for (or otherwise obtain food for), administer medications for, and bath and dress Sarah in Las Vegas, Beverly was still “caring” for Sarah as required under the FMLA.
So, if a family member with a serious illness requires your care, and that family member wishes to take a trip, you may be permitted leave under FMLA to join and care for the family member on his or her trip. However, be careful. This ruling does not mean that employees who want extra vacation time can just find a sick family member to tag along, so the vacation time will be covered under FMLA. The court in Ballard considered it important to its ruling that Sarah planned the trip under the advice of her social worker. The outcome of the case may have very well been different had Beverly suggested and planned the trip instead of Sarah.
Ballad is an interesting ruling because it shows how broad the definition of “care” is under FMLA. Care for a family member does not have the geographic limits that many may have previously thought it to have, nor is it confined to only “treatment” of the family member’s medical condition.
If you have questions about what actions are covered as “care” under FMLA or if you have recently been terminated because your employer stated that care you gave to an FMLA covered family member was not within the provisions of FMLA then it would be best to call the right attorney now. If you feel that you are being denied leave rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or are being retaliated against for taking medical leave, you should call the right attorney as quickly as possible to schedule a free and confidential consultation. The phone number to contact an Ohio attorney 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.
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?”, “what should I do if I was fired in retaliation for taking FMLA 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.