In Tayag v Lahey Clinic Hospital, Inc, the First Circuit ruled that an employee fired for taking seven weeks off work to accompany her husband on a series of "healing pilgrimages" in the Philippines was not terminated in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Maria Tayag's husband received no conventional medical treatment on the trip and saw no doctors or health care providers. Tayag described the trip as a series of "healing pilgrimages" with incidental socializing.
The FMLA allows employees twelve workweeks annually to care for a spouse if the spouse has a "serious health condition." The FMLA defines "serious health condition" as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves continuing treatment by a health care provider. "Health care provider" is defined as a doctor of medicine or osteopathy who is authorized to practice medicine or surgery. Tayag argued that because an exception exists allowing members of the Christian Scientist faith to be treated by those not otherwise deemed as "health care providers" under the FMLA, it would be unconstitutional to disallow an exception for healing by a Catholic priest. The First Circuit disagreed, holding the Christian Scientist exception exists to benefit patients whose religions forbid ordinary medical care, a category inapplicable to Tayag's husband. As such, Tayag's seven-week absence was not protected leave under the FMLA.