I have had a trip to Florida planned since the beginning of the year. I have been out of work with a back problem for two weeks, and just got my FMLA papers back to my job yesterday. I do have a wheelchair to use. I will be staying with my mother for 4 days—it’s not like I am going to any of the amusement parks!
Ann Kiernan replies:
I have not seen a case exactly on point, but it seems to me that if the Florida trip is approved by your doctor as less physically demanding than your job and consistent with your treatment and recovery, it should be OK. However, make sure that your employer does not have a policy that requires employees on medical leave to stay close to home or to get permission to leave the area. In Pellegrino v. Communs. Workers of Am., 478 F. App’x 742 (3d Cir. 2012) the employer had such a policy, which justified firing an employee who went on vacation to Mexico while on FMLA. The appeals court gave some advice on a footnote that applies to your situation: Even if an employer did not have a formal policy restricting travel during FMLA leave, “no reasonable jury could find that an employer acts illegitimately or interferes with FMLA entitlements when that employer terminates an employee for taking a week-long vacation to Mexico without at least notifying the employer that her doctor had approved the travel or that she would be out of the country.”
So, my advice is to get a note from your doctor clearing you for the trip and let your employer know that you are going to see your mother. Say hello to her from me!
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.
Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.