Last August, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued an opinion letter clarifying further permissible uses of protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), now allowing parents to take leave under FMLA to attend Committee on Special Education (CSE) meetings addressing the employee's son’s or daughter's Individualized Education Program (IEP).

Before we get into the details of the opinion letter, we will first cover the basics.

Overview for FMLA protected leave.

By way of background, the FMLA provides qualified workers of covered employers unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons and requires employers to continue health insurance coverage for employees on FMLA leave on the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

The FMLA indicates that you can take protected leave for the following reasons:

  • for the birth of a son or daughter, and to bond with the newborn child;
  • for the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care, and to bond with that child;
  • to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent – but not a parent “in-law”) with a serious health condition;
  • to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition; or
  • for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is on covered active duty or call to covered active duty status as a member of the National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces.”

The FMLA also permits qualifying workers in a "single 12-month period” to take up to 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for a covered servicemember with a significant injury or illness.

Are you an employer subject to FMLA?

FMLA extends to all public agencies including local, State, and Federal employers as well as local education agencies and private sectors, regardless of employee count.

For qualification as a private-sector employer, you must employ 50 or more employees for at least 20 weeks of work in the current or previous calendar year. This is including joint employers and successors of covered employers.

Are you an employee eligible for FMLA leave?

As an employee, for you to be eligible to take leave under the FMLA, you must:

  • work for a covered employer;
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave (special hours of service rules apply to airline flight crew members);
  • work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles; and
  • have worked for the employer for at least 12 months. The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave. In general, only employment within seven years is counted unless the break in service is 1) due to an employee’s fulfillment of military obligations, or 2) governed by a collective bargaining agreement or other written agreement.”

Now that we have covered the basics of the FMLA and the requirements for both employers and employees, let’s dive into the details of the opinion letter.

Can an employee take FMLA leave to attend CSE/IEP meetings for their son or daughter?

Under this new opinion letter, attending CSE/IEP meetings addressing the educational and special medical needs of an employee's child or children - who have severe health conditions as certified by a health care provider - is a qualifying reason to take intermittent FMLA leave.

Attendance at such meetings falls under “to care for” a family member with a serious condition, including “to make arrangements for changes in care.” Also of note in the letter, an employee may “make arrangements for changes in care,” even if the care does not include a facility that provides medical treatment and regardless of whether the child’s doctor is present at the CSE/IEP meetings.

For more information, check out the DOLs opinion letter here.

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Disclaimer: Please note that this is not all-inclusive. Our guidance is designed only to give general information on the issues actually covered. It is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of all laws which may be applicable to your situation, treat exhaustively the subjects covered, provide legal advice, or render a legal opinion. Consult your own legal advisor regarding the specific application of the information to your own plan.