By Bill Wright
The Chicago-based 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that where an employee provides care for a family member with a serious health condition does not matter under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). The employee was the principal caregiver for her mother. As an end-of-life wish, a charity gave the mother a trip to Las Vegas, and the employee asked for leave to continue providing care to her mother during the trip. The employer denied the leave and, counting the unexcused absence against the employee, terminated her several months later. In the lawsuit that followed, the employer maintained that taking leave for a free trip to Las Vegas is not covered by the FMLA, but the 7th Circuit Court saw it differently. The employee continued to provide the same care for her mother in Las Vegas that she provided at home. The location where the care is provided doesn’t matter. Like many 7th Circuit opinions, the result sounds obvious when you hear it, but the decision creates a different rule in the 7th Circuit than the rule in the 9th Circuit and the 1st Circuit. We might hear more about this before it is over. Ballard v. Chicago Park District, No. 13-1445 (Jan. 28, 2014).