“Serious Health Conditions” under FMLA
Are chiropractic physicians able to certify a “serious health condition” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?
The short answer is yes. However, there are some very important stipulations.
First, FMLA is a federal law (not state) and therefore typical “federal definitions” of chiropractic seem to have been applied. According to the Department of Labor (department charged with the oversight of FMLA), here is the definition of Health Care Provider in the FMLA:
“Health care provider” means:
- doctors of medicine or osteopathy authorized to practice medicine or surgery by the state in which the doctors practice; or
- podiatrists, dentists, clinical psychologists, optometrists and chiropractors (limited to manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist) authorized to practice, and performing within the scope of their practice, under state law; or
- nurse practitioners, nurse-midwives and clinical social workers authorized to practice, and performing within the scope of their practice, as defined under state law; or
- Christian Science practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts; or
- Any health care provider recognized by the employer or the employer’s group health plan benefits manager.”
Therefore, the definition implies that unless demonstrating a subluxation with an x-ray, you are not considered to be a Health care provider under FMLA. In fact, we have examples in Illinois where leave was denied because the chiropractic physician did not take an x-ray. It also appears that the courts, for the most part, are adhering very closely to this language – Olsen v. Ohio Edison Co., as well as, Silcox v. Via Christi Okla. Reg’l Med. Ctr.
In addition, the x-ray must be associated with manual manipulation of the spine. This language would also indicate that chiropractic physicians would not be able to certify a serious health condition for FMLA in cases involving extremities.
For more information, here is a link to an article written for HR directors on this exact subject:
When Are Chiropractors ‘Health Care Providers’ Under the FMLA?