January 13, 2020
Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released an opinion letter confirming that an employee is entitled to take FMLA leave to attend Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings for his/her child. Below are details that will be relevant to employers.
FMLA and IEPs
Many employers already permit employees to take FMLA leave for IEP meetings related to children’s serious health conditions. In its opinion letter, the DOL outlined the following facts and circumstances that led to its decision.
- The employee at issue had 2 children who received certification from physicians supporting the employee’s need to take intermittent leave to care for the children.
- The employer had already approved the employee’s taking FMLA leave to bring the children to medical appointments.
- The children received pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy provided by their school district. The school district held meetings 4 times a year—attended by (among others) a speech pathologist, school psychologist, occupational therapist, and/or physical therapist—to review the children’s progress, review physician recommendations, and make recommendations for additional therapy.
- The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to develop IEPs for children who receive special education and related services, which may include medical, psychological, and other services. State and local laws may include additional requirements for special education and related services.
- The DOL concluded that the employee’s attendance at IEP meetings was “care for a family member… with a serious health condition” under the FMLA. Therefore, the employee was entitled to take intermittent FMLA leave to attend those meetings. This conclusion applies to IEP meetings under the IDEA and similar meetings under state or local law.
- The DOL also noted that a doctor did not need to be present at IEP meetings for the employee to qualify for intermittent FMLA leave.
We recommend that employers:
- Review current FMLA policies and procedures to ensure that they permit FMLA leave for IEP and similar meetings for employees and their family members;
- Work with HR, payroll, and any third-party vendors to determine what changes to current FMLA policies and procedures are needed, if any.