Jun 19, 2020
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The Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued an opinion letter last week concluding that employees may use Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave to attend their children’s Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) meetings.
The August 8, 2019 opinion letter addressed the matter of a woman whose employer approved her request for intermittent FMLA leave to take her two children to medical appointments, but would not approve her request to use the leave to attend her children’s IEP meetings. The woman’s two children had serious health conditions as defined by the FMLA, for which the school provided pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy. Teachers and therapists working with her children held IEP meetings four times per year to review their educational and medical needs and progress, review recommendations made by the children’s doctors, and make recommendations for additional therapy.
The DOL determined that the woman’s need to attend these IEP meetings was a qualifying reason for taking intermittent FMLA leave. Under the FMLA, an eligible employee of a covered employer may take up to twelve weeks of job-protected, unpaid FMLA leave per year to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The DOL concluded that the woman’s participation in the IEP meetings constituted care for family members with serious health conditions, as “to care for” family members includes making arrangements for changes in their care. The DOL also confirmed that the children’s doctor did not need to be present for the woman to qualify for FMLA leave. While the determination specifically referred to IEP meetings, it is not limited to such meetings according to the DOL. Rather, it also applies to any meetings held pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) and any applicable state or local laws, regardless of the terms used for those meetings.
DOL opinion letters are guidance documents. While they are not binding on the courts, they explain the DOL’s position on how the particular laws the DOL enforces apply in specific circumstances.
If you are concerned that your FMLA leave request has been improperly denied, or you are having trouble getting employer approval to attend your child’s IEP meetings, please contact Ed Feinstein for a confidential consultation.
Posted by Taylor Gillan. Taylor was an associate with Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec, LLC whose practice areas included labor and employment, education, and class action cases.