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Does FMLA Cover Non-traditional Medicine?

On Behalf of | May 22, 2015 | Employment Law

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.

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