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DOL: FMLA Covers School Meetings

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a new opinion letter. In that letter, the agency asserts that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers an employee who misses work to attend a particular type of school meeting. The letter specifies that meetings to discuss a child’s individualized education program (IEP) qualify. IEPs set forth the program of special education that a child with a disability is entitled to receive as part of his/her/their education and is specific to each child.

The letter came in response to a situation involving the parents of two children with serious health issues. One of the parents received approval for intermittent FMLA to take the children to medical appointments but was refused the same approval for school meetings. These kids had doctor prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy which had been provided by the school district. To maintain these benefits, the parents had to meet with the school district four times per year to review “their [children’s] educational and medical needs, well-being, and progress.” IEP meetings included all of the providers of the benefits required under the IEP as well as the child’s teachers and school administrators.

In its opinion letter, the DOL found that the IEP meetings constituted “care for a family member…with a serious health condition.” The FMLA regulations include making “arrangements for changes in care.” Relying on some precedent arising out of family conferences pertaining to physical health, the DOL concluded that IEP meetings for prescribed therapies was, in essence, making medical decisions and was important to ensure that the school was meeting the children’s needs.