Christina PeerOn August 8, 2019, the Department of Labor released an opinion clarifying that attending an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting constitutes a reason for intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Under the FMLA, an eligible employee of a covered employer may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year to “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.”  A “serious health condition” is defined as “an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.” Under the FMLA, an employee may use this leave intermittently when medically necessary because of a family member’s serious health condition.

According to the Department of Labor, attending an IEP meeting would fall under “care for a family member with a serious health condition” as this can include making arrangements for changes in care. The Department of Labor has, under existing policy, stated that an employee is entitled to take FMLA leave to attend “care conferences related to a health condition” because attendance at these meetings would be essential to the employee’s ability to provide the necessary care to their family member with a qualifying condition. Therefore, the Department of Labor concluded attendance at an IEP meeting is essential to the ability of said guardian to provide “appropriate physical or psychological care” to a child with a serious health condition and would be a qualifying reason for intermittent FMLA leave.

An employer may require an employee to provide a copy of a certification supporting his or her request to take such leave. That may include information from the child’s doctor certifying that the child has a serious health condition and notification that an IEP meeting has been scheduled. The Department of Labor, however, has made it clear that the student’s doctor would not need to be present at the IEP meeting for the guardian’s leave to qualify under FMLA.

Employers should provide all FMLA required paperwork to employees who seek to take intermittent leave to attend IEP meetings for a disabled child. Additionally, all of the employers’ FMLA policies would be applicable and should be followed in cases of intermittent leave.  Given the fact-specific nature of FMLA inquiries, employers are encouraged to contact their legal counsel if questions arise regarding a particular situation.

Christina Peer is chair of the Education Law group at Walter | Haverfield. She can be reached at cpeer@walterhav.com or at 216-928-2918.