Termination for Taking Dying Mom to Las Vegas May Violate the FMLA

Termination for Taking Dying Mom to Las Vegas May Violate the FMLA

In a recent case from Illinois, a federal court denied Chicago’s Park District summary judgment giving it the right to fire an employee for accompanying her mother to Las Vegas.  The employee had asked for leave to accompany her dying mother on a trip provided by a charitable organization granting last wishes to terminal patients.  The employee was her mother’s primary caregiver, other than the hospice workers.

The employer claimed that the employee’s leave was unauthorized, so it fired her.  It further argued that because her mother was not receiving medical treatment in Las Vegas, the Family and Medical Leave Act did not apply.

Not so fast, said the court.  The law requires that the person taking leave is needed to care for her mother’s needs, including basic hygiene and nutritional needs.  The fact that they traveled and had fun did not change the fact that the employee gave her mother medicine, and took care of her while they were away.  And while the law requires the person cared for to have a serious health condition, many patients deemed terminal no longer receive medical care.

One wonders if the Grinch made the decision to terminate this employee.  An employee asks for five days to take Mom to Las Vegas, her dying wish, and the Park District says no, we need our lifeguard all January long?  Chicago has requested the District Court to allow it to appeal immediately, rather than waiting for a trial.  The court will have a status hearing tomorrow, Ballard v. Chicago Park District.

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