FMLA Covers Special Education Meetings
Just in time for the new school year, the Department of Labor (DOL) confirmed that parents of children with special education needs may use time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to attend school-based individualized education program (IEP) meetings.
The clarification came via an opinion letter (see the full letter below), published August 8, in response to an employer that allowed an employee time off under FMLA to take her children to therapy appointments to address their special education needs, but refused to allow her to take time off to attend IEP meetings where the need for such appointments was discussed.
IEP meetings bring together stakeholders in the care of children with special needs, including teachers, administrators, therapists, and more in order to give progress updates and determine future care plans. To be effective in caring for their children, the DOL concluded, employees must be allowed to attend IEP meetings even when a doctor or medical professional is not present.
While employers must allow FMLA-eligible employees to attend IEP meetings, they may still request that employees schedule the meetings at the least disruptive times during the workday. They may also request that employees provide as much advance notice as possible whenever meetings are scheduled. Employers may also request medical certification, just as they can for other FMLA leave requests.
These protections do not apply to other types of school meetings, such as discipline or conferences. Some states do require employers to provide time off for school events, however, so be sure you’re aware of your state’s laws.
Key to remember: The DOL has ruled that special education meetings fall under the definition of time off to deal with a child’s serious health condition. Employers must allow eligible employees to use FMLA leave to attend the meetings.
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