In a recent opinion letter, the Department of Labor clarified that the FMLA can require employers to allow leave for employees to attend school special education meetings. The Department issued the August 8, 2019, opinion letter in response to an inquiry from the parents of two children with FMLA-qualifying serious health conditions.
One of the parents received medical certification supporting her need for intermittent leave and had received approval from her employer to attend medical appointments. However, her employer did not approve her leave to attend school meetings that were regularly held to discuss the children’s’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and review the children’s educational and medical needs, well-being, and progress.
The FMLA provides for up to 12 weeks of leave to eligible employees to, among other things, “care for the spouse, or a son, daughter, or parent, of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter, or parent has a serious health condition.” See 29 U.S.C. § 2612 (a)(1)(C).
The Department determined that these IEP meetings were indeed a necessary part of caring for a family member with a serious health condition. Specifically, the Department noted that the employee attends these meetings to help participants make medical decisions concerning their children’s medically-prescribed speech, physical, and occupational therapy; to discuss their children’s wellbeing and progress with the providers of such services; and to ensure that the school environment is suitable to their medical, social, and academic needs.
The Department’s determination recognizes the reality that working parents of children with serious health conditions need leave from work not only for doctor’s appointments, but also to communicate and manage their children’s care at school, daycare, and with other providers. Going forward, these parents should be sure to follow their employer’s FMLA leave request procedures in order to take leave for any time off that relates to their child’s care.