Is a Chiropractor a “Health Care Provider” UNDER FMLA?

June 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Posted in FMLA | Leave a comment
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ANSWER: Only in a limited situation. FMLA regulations recognize a chiropractor as a health care provider if the provided health care treatment consists of manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist.

If an employee’s disorder is not subject to verification by X-ray, even though the employee is receiving manual manipulation of the spine, then the certifying Chiropractor is not an appropriate health care provider for FMLA certification purposes.

Courts interpret FMLA chiropractor provision strictly
There have been only a few cases in which employers have challenged medical certifications by chiropractors under the FMLA, but when the question has been litigated, courts have applied the terms of the regulations strictly.

In one case, the employer discharged an employee for excessive absences. The employee had sought FMLA leave for treatment by a chiropractor, but the chiropractor hadn’t taken any x-rays at the time he certified the employee’s health condition. The court held that because he hadn’t yet taken any x-rays to demonstrate a subluxation, the chiropractor “was not acting as a health care provider within the meaning of the FMLA when he purported to excuse [the employee] from work” (emphasis added). The court therefore dismissed the case in favor of the employer. It also mentioned that the chiropractor eventually took x- rays (after the leave) that didn’t show a subluxation. Olsen v. Ohio Edison Co.

The court faced a similar situation in another case in which the employee was discharged for falsifying a timecard. She filed suit, alleging she was actually fired in retaliation for attempting to take FMLA leave. The trial court determined that although the employee’s chiropractor, a Dr. Bristow, manipulated a subluxation, she had never taken any x-rays. The court concluded, like the court in the Olsen case, that “because [the employee] must show that Dr. Bristow performed ‘manual manipulation of the spine to correct a subluxation as demonstrated by X-ray to exist,’ and because Dr. Bristow did not take any x-ray . . . , the Court finds that Dr. Bristow is not a ‘health care provider’ within the meaning of the FMLA.” It then dismissed the case, a decision that was upheld on appeal. Silcox v. Via Christi Okla. Reg’l Med. Ctr.


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