By Emily Shupe

On August 8, 2019, the United States Department of Labor issued an opinion letter that states that an employee may use intermittent FMLA leave to attend Committee on Special Education meetings to discuss his/her child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).  The individual seeking the opinion noted that his two children have serious health conditions that require pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy provided by the children’s school district.  While the requester’s wife’s employer permitted her to use FMLA leave to take the children to medical appointments, the employer did not approve her requests to use FMLA leave to attend IEP meetings.

In opining that attending IEP meetings is a qualifying reason for FMLA leave, the DOL noted that the FMLA permits an employee to take up to twelve 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.”  29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C).  Such care expressly includes “both physical and psychological care” and “mak[ing] arrangements for changes in care.”  29 C.F.R. § 825.124.  The DOL found that that the mother’s “attendance at IEP meetings is essential to her ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care to [her] children” and cited another opinion letter in which an employee was entitled to use FMLA leave to attend care conferences for her mother.

While the DOL was careful to note that its opinion was based on the specific facts presented by the requester, employers should be aware of this opinion in considering requests for intermittent FMLA leave.  Employers may request certification of the health condition by a medical professional and require that an employee meet certain criteria in order to use FMLA leave.

Rathje Woodward advises clients on a broad range of employment and labor matters, including compliance, policies and procedures, internal investigations, administrative proceedings, collective bargaining negotiations and disputes, union avoidance policies and litigation defense.  If you have questions about FMLA, or how this recent Department of Labor opinion may impact your business, contact Emily A. ShupeRaymond J. SanguinettiMark J. McAndrew, or John R. Zemenak at 630-668-8500.

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