You gotta love these stories, sometimes. An employee goes back to her home country, the Phillipines with her husband for seven weeks. They visit family, friends. The husband is disabled. They visit a miraculous Catholic church, known for its healing abilities. The wife pushes her husband’s wheel chair, comforts him, provides psychological counseling, helps with the luggage. Visiting family and friends consume perhaps 40% of their time. She is gone seven weeks and claims FMLA leave when she returns to the US. The employer denies her claim. She sues. Who wins? The employer. Because, she was seeking a miracle, not medical treatment, said the court. According to Mike Maslanka. Too, the court added, a priest is not a medical care provider under the FMLA.
In an opinion out of the Massachusetts district court, the judge said even if this trip constituted medical treatment, the FMLA does not cover a vacation trip with a sick spouse, even if treatment is an incidental part of that trip. Tayag v. Lahey Clinic Hospital. It is not clear to what extent, if any, caring for a sick spouse on a medically necessary trip would be covered under the FMLA. Courts have found that providing indirect psychological support for an ill family member does qualify as caring under the FMLA. But, in reading the opinion, it appears that the court was too troubled by the vacation aspect and the absence of actual medical treatment.