Employees don’t have a broad right to FMLA leave for pilgrimages or other faith healing, a federal appeals court has just ruled.

The decision came in the case of a Massachusetts clinic employee. She was fired after taking an unapproved seven-week leave to accompany her seriously ill husband on a “healing pilgrimage” to the Philippines, the couple’s country of origin.

During the trip, she said in her FMLA lawsuit, she and her husband attended Mass at Roman Catholic churches, prayed, and spoke with the priest and other pilgrims at one parish’s Pilgrimage of Healing Ministry.The employee argued that these activities were covered by the faith healing provision in the FMLA regs.

Christian scientists only
But the court said this provision was limited to care by Christian Science practitioners, and for good reason: Christian Scientists reject conventional medical treatment. In other cases, FMLA doesn’t apply to spiritual activities such as attending church or going on pilgrimages.

Cite: Tahag v. Lahey Clinic Hospital, No. 10-1169, 1st Cir., 1/27/11.

photo credit: http2007

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