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DTCI: 'Caring for' family under FMLA

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freybergerGenerally stated, the Family and Medical Leave Act gives eligible employees the right to 12 workweeks of leave “[i]n order to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.” 29 U.S.C. §2612(a)(1)(C). What happens when a family member is diagnosed with a terminal illness and begins the somber review of their bucket list, noticing that a trip to Las Vegas is still unchecked? Would taking time to accompany and care for that family member be included in the definition of caring for under the FMLA? For instance, if a father is diagnosed with terminal cancer and been given the opinion that he has six months to live, can you request leave to take him to Italy to meet distant relatives because it has always been his dream to do so?

A similar question was presented to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and the decision was rendered Jan. 28. In Ballard v. Chicago Park District, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 1747; 2014 WL 294550, the issue was whether the FMLA applies when an employee requests leave to provide physical and psychological care to a terminally ill parent while that parent is traveling to Las Vegas to fulfill an end-of-life goal. The employee had been providing care to her mother before the trip. Through the help of a hospice worker, the funding for the trip was being provided by the Fairygodmother Foundation, a nonprofit organization that facilitates such opportunities for terminally ill adults.

The court ultimately found that this was covered by the FMLA. In doing so, the court parted ways with the 1st and 9th Circuits on this issue. The 7th Circuit pointed out that the FMLA does not restrict care of a family member to a particular geographic location. Care for an individual in Las Vegas is the same as care for that individual at home. The court also stated that the care provided can be both physical and psychological under the applicable regulations and would include providing comfort and reassurance for a family member who is receiving inpatient or home care, although the court refused to restrict it to situations of in-home care, noting that it was an example rather than an exclusive definition.

In Ballard, the employee was actively caring for her mother before the Las Vegas trip. She also provided physical care for her mother while on the trip, so the need for leave was not solely to provide moral support. It could conceivably be a different outcome if the need for leave was to accompany a family member on a trip while no actual medical care is being rendered. However, the 7th Circuit seemed to address this potential situation by stating, “[a]ny worries about opportunistic leave-taking in this case should be tempered by the fact that this dispute arises out of the hospice and palliative care context.” This seems to give significance to the dire situation being faced by the family, making it logical that psychological care was needed, and the employee was not using the opportunity to take a vacation.•

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Greg Freyberger is a partner in the litigation section of the Evansville firm Kahn Dees Donovan & Kahn LLP, and is a member of the board of directors of DTCI. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. No second amendment, pro life, pro traditional marriage, reagan or trump tshirts will be sold either. And you cannot draw Mohammed even in your own notebook. And you must wear a helmet at all times while at the fair. And no lawyer jokes can be told except in the designated protest area. And next year no crucifixes, since they are uber offensive to all but Catholics. Have a nice bland day here in the Lego movie. Remember ... Everything is awesome comrades.

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  3. All these sites putting up all the crap they do making Brent Look like A Monster like he's not a good person . First off th fight actually started not because of Brent but because of one of his friends then when the fight popped off his friend ran like a coward which left Brent to fend for himself .It IS NOT a crime to defend yourself 3 of them and 1 of him . just so happened he was a better fighter. I'm Brent s wife so I know him personally and up close . He's a very caring kind loving man . He's not abusive in any way . He is a loving father and really shouldn't be where he is not for self defense . Now because of one of his stupid friends trying to show off and turning out to be nothing but a coward and leaving Brent to be jumped by 3 men not only is Brent suffering but Me his wife , his kids abd step kidshis mom and brother his family is left to live without him abd suffering in more ways then one . that man was and still is my smile ....he's the one real thing I've ever had in my life .....f@#@ You Lafayette court system . Learn to do your jobs right he maybe should have gotten that year for misdemeanor battery but that s it . not one person can stand to me and tell me if u we're in a fight facing 3 men and u just by yourself u wouldn't fight back that you wouldn't do everything u could to walk away to ur family ur kids That's what Brent is guilty of trying to defend himself against 3 men he wanted to go home tohisfamily worse then they did he just happened to be a better fighter and he got the best of th others . what would you do ? Stand there lay there and be stomped and beaten or would u give it everything u got and fight back ? I'd of done the same only I'm so smallid of probably shot or stabbed or picked up something to use as a weapon . if it was me or them I'd do everything I could to make sure I was going to live that I would make it hone to see my kids and husband . I Love You Brent Anthony Forever & Always .....Soul 1 baby

  4. Good points, although this man did have a dog in the legal fight as that it was his mother on trial ... and he a dependent. As for parking spaces, handicap spots for pregnant women sure makes sense to me ... er, I mean pregnant men or women. (Please, I meant to include pregnant men the first time, not Room 101 again, please not Room 101 again. I love BB)

  5. I have no doubt that the ADA and related laws provide that many disabilities must be addressed. The question, however, is "by whom?" Many people get dealt bad cards by life. Some are deaf. Some are blind. Some are crippled. Why is it the business of the state to "collectivize" these problems and to force those who are NOT so afflicted to pay for those who are? The fact that this litigant was a mere spectator and not a party is chilling. What happens when somebody who speaks only East Bazurkistanish wants a translator so that he can "understand" the proceedings in a case in which he has NO interest? Do I and all other taxpayers have to cough up? It would seem so. ADA should be amended to provide a simple rule: "Your handicap, YOUR problem". This would apply particularly to handicapped parking spaces, where it seems that if the "handicap" is an ingrown toenail, the government comes rushing in to assist the poor downtrodden victim. I would grant wounded vets (IED victims come to mind in particular) a pass on this.. but others? Nope.

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