Faith-Healing Vacation Not Protected Under FMLA

Rhomeo Tayag suffers from a variety of medical conditions, including gout, chronic liver and heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and kidney problems. These illnesses intermittently leave him debilitated. He depends on his wife, Maria, to help him with daily tasks, including basic household chores, preparing food and getting to doctors' appointments.

From 2003 to 2006, Maria Tayag took intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave from her job as a health management clerk at Lahey Clinic Hospital in Boston to care for Rhomeo. Typically her leave requests lasted one or two days at a time. Lahey routinely approved these requests.

The 1st Circuit rejected that claim, finding that the exception for Christian Scientists, whose religion forbids conventional treatment, was really designed to cover only those "patients who choose to rely solely upon a religious method of healing and for whom the acceptance of medical health services would be inconsistent with their religious beliefs."

Still, some experts say the court left open an argument for faith-based healing to be covered under the law. "If the trip did not contain any vacationing, or at least a much smaller percentage of vacationing, then the court might entertain the psychological benefits of such a trip," says Stephen Schwartz, a New Jersey-based employment lawyer and former general counsel. Schwartz points out that the Tayags spent 19 days sightseeing on their trip. "Perhaps, if the husband had stayed on the campus and focused all of his attention on the 'treatment' then the court may have been persuaded that this was a recognized form of psychological treatment."

Adele Nicholas

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.