August 21, 2019

Time Off for Child’s IEP May Trigger Leave Under FMLA

On August 8, 2019, the Department of Labor issued an Opinion Letter explaining that employees may take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to attend a meeting discussing their child’s Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires public schools to develop an IEP for every student found to meet federal and state guidelines for special education. An IEP is created through a collaboration between parents and schools for students needing special education.  

Under the FMLA, an employee may take leave to address a family member’s “serious health condition.” 29 U.S.C. § 2612(b)(1); 29 C.F.R. § 825.202. A “serious health condition” is an injury, illness, impairment, or physical or mental condition that requires impatient care or continuing care. An employee who qualifies, may take unpaid FMLA leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent who suffers from a serious health condition.  29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C).  

In the Opinion Letter, the Department applied a straightforward reading of the FMLA. The Department explained that a parent’s attendance of an IEP meeting constitutes care for a family member with a serious medical condition. The Department concluded that attending an IEP meeting is essential for the psychological care of one’s child, and thus covered by the FMLA.

This Opinion Letter does not break new ground. However, it should serve as a reminder that employers must consider all time off requests in light of FMLA and state law.