On August 8th, 2019 the US Department of Labor issued an opinion letter to a mother of two special needs children approving them to use FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) to attend their quarterly IEP meetings. The FMLA is as follows:
"The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:
•Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
•the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
•to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
•a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
The Department of Labor stated that the IEP (Individualized Education Program) meetings would fall under "to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;". This is a great step for parents of special needs children. IEP meetings are an essential part of assisting with a child's success. At IEP meetings teachers, administrators, counselors, and parents get together to discuss, evaluate, and strategize to help the child achieve the most they can. Having at least one parent there is essential.
Employers should consider whether employees' requests for time off to attend IEP meetings for their children may qualify as FMLA leave. Although DOL opinion letters are specific to the facts presented, employers can look to them for guidance when deciphering the FMLA law.