By: Eugene Hollander
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Hollander Law Offices Wins Seventh Circuit Decision on FMLA
Beverly Ballard was formerly employed by the Chicago Park District. In April,, 2006, her mother was diagnosed with end-stage congestive heart failure and began receiving hospice support. Beverly lived with her mother, Sarah, and cooked for her, administered insulin and other medication, bathed and dressed her, and got her ready for bed. In 2007, Sarah said that she always wanted to take a family trip to Las Vegas. A social worker was able to secure funding through the Fairy Godmother Foundation, a nonprofit organization which facilitated opportunities like these for terminally-ill adults. Beverly requested unpaid leave through her employer. The Park District ultimately denied the request. Beverly took her mother on the trip – they engaged in typical tourist activities, but Beverly also provided care to her mother during the trip. Several months later, the Park District terminated Beverly’s employment for exercising unauthorized absences accumulated during her trip. Beverly filed suit, claiming that the termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, (“FMLA”). Her employer sought dismissal of the case, and a federal district court denied the motion, reasoning that Beverly provided care to her mother during the trip. In a case of first impression in our Seventh Circuit, the federal appellate court held that it did not matter where Beverly cared for her mother, and thus was protected under the FMLA. The Court upheld the lower court’s decision. Paul Ryan, who handled the matter at the trial court and appellate levels, said, “This is a great victory for employees. They should not be afraid to care for a loved one, if it involves travel away from home.” We will keep you posted as the case progresses.