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Does FMLA Cover Non-traditional Medicine?

The Family Medical Leave Act stipulates that employees with a year or more of full-time service with a company of 50 employees or more is eligible for 12 weeks in a 12-month period of unpaid leave in order to take care of their own or a family member's medical issue.

Commonly this has meant taking leave

to have a baby or adopt one, recover from surgery, help an elderly parent who is recovering from a medical issue, or to care for your own child. But what if you are seeking leave for a treatment that's not traditional? Does your employer have a say in how you seek treatment or recover?

The 2011 decision in Tayag v. Lahey Clinic Hospital, Inc. dealt with this very issue. In this case, Maria Tayag sought seven weeks of medical leave to care for her husband, who was seriously ill with several medical conditions. This leave included a spiritual healing trip, and after the benefits administrator did some digging, they determined that the trip was not eligible for FMLA, and Tayag was terminated. In this case, the trip was occurring outside of any other medical care, and the need for the trip was not supported by Tayag's husband's medical team.

If you intend to use FMLA for nontraditional medical care, first you need to determine if your medical condition qualifies you for FMLA. Your condition may have to be corroborated by one of more health professionals to be approved by your benefits administrator. Second, what is the treatment you are seeking? Is it being pursued because of religious beliefs? Is it being pursued to the exclusion of conventional medicine? If you are cherry-picking from different traditions, it may be harder to make an FMLA claim.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination, Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings.

Our attorneys have more than 35 years dedicated to giving clients the attention, advice, support and empowerment they need to effectively meet their goals. We are committed to the principle that all persons shall have equal justice under the law. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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