Federal Court Holds End of Life Trip Protected Under Family and Medical Leave Act

The Hollander Law Offices was successful in resisting a summary judgment motion involving a case of first impression within the federal court of the Seventh Circuit involving an issue with the Family and Medical Leave Act, (FMLA). Sarah Ballard, who was suffering from end-stage congestive heart failure, was given a trip to Las Vegas by a charitable group.  Her daughter, Beverly, an employee of the Chicago Park District, accompanied her on the vacation.  Ms. Ballard claimed that she asked her supervisor about a month before the trip to use leave pursuant to the FMLA, so that she could go with her mother.  Ms. Ballard faxed a request to him a few weeks later when the supervisor failed to acknowledge her request.  The supervisor denied that the conversation took place, and then denied her request on the mistaken belief that she was seeking personal time off.  Ms. Ballard claims that she tried to reach the supervisor several times by phone.  She went on the trip and was assured that everything would be OK assuming that she completed the paperwork.  The Park District then terminated her employment for being absent from work.  Ms. Ballard filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that her FMLA rights were interfered with.  The Park District filed papers to have her claim dismissed.  The FMLA allows employees to take a maximum of twelve weeks per year to "care for" a family member or close relative who is seriously ill.  Federal District Court Judge Edmond Chang denied the Park District's Motion, noting that Sarah Ballard suffered from a covered serious health condition and further reasoned that the FMLA does not set narrow restrictions on the type of care which the employee provides.  The Court observed that Ms. Ballard routinely provided physical care to her at home, including, but not limited to, providing meals, removing fluids from her heart, and giving her insulin shots.  The Court noted that the employee does not have to directly administer medical treatment and that Ms. Ballard provided care to her when they went to Las Vegas.  Attorney Paul Ryan stated that his client is pleased with the Court's ruling.  The Park District has since filed papers seeking an immediate appeal on this issue to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Categories: Employment Law