For 37 years, CEC has recognized children and youth with exceptionalities who have demonstrated their determination and achievements in multiple ways. The Yes I Can Program has continued to grow and change since its inception in 1982, with more than 40,000 children and young adults recognized at the national, state, and/or provincial level.
Want to nominate one of your students for a 2020 Yes I Can Award? Complete the 2020 nomination form before September 16, 2019.
Each Yes I Can Award winner will:
If you have any questions about the Yes I Can Awards program, please contact Alexandra Garvey at email@example.com.
By Jeff Nowak on August 9, 2019
POSTED IN DOL INITIATIVES, OPINION LETTERS
If I gave you a million tries, you’d never guess that the next Department of Labor FMLA opinion letter would answer the question [wait for it . . .]: Is an employee’s attendance at a child’s IEP meeting covered by the FMLA?
The Answer? Yes. Most definitely, yes.
In an opinion letter issued yesterday, the DOL concluded that the FMLA covers an employee’s attendance at a school meeting where their child’s individualized education program (IEP) will be discussed.
Interestingly, the request for an opinion letter came from a set of parents whose two children have serious health conditions. The employer for one of the parents approved intermittent FMLA leave to transport their children to and from medical appointments, but refused a request to take intermittent FMLA leave to attend school meetings.
As background, their children currently receive “pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy provided by their school district.” Additionally, on four occasions throughout the school year, their school holds IEP meetings to “review their educational and medical needs, well-being, and progress.” These IEP meetings include participation by a speech pathologist, school psychologist, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist employed or contracted by the school district, all of whom provide services to the child under the child’s IEP. The child’s teachers and school administrators also attend. [In case you’re wondering, an IEP outlines the program of special education instruction, support and services a child with a disability will receive as part of their education program. Each program is designed to meet a child’s exact needs.]
When one of the parents was denied FMLA leave to attend these IEP meetings, the parents together took the law into their own hands — and drafted a request for an opinion letter from the DOL regarding the issue.
Based on these facts, the DOL determined that the employee’s attendance at the IEP meetings constitutes “care for a family member … with a serious health condition.” Here’s the DOL’s rationale:
“Care for a family member includes both physical and psychological care. As noted above, “to care for” a family member with a serious health condition
includes “to make arrangements for changes in care.”
29 C.F.R. § 825.124(b)
In finding that IEP meetings are covered by the FMLA, the DOL leaned heavily on: 1) a 2012 federal court case, Wegelin v. Reading Hosp. & Med. Ctr., and 2) an FMLA opinion letter the agency issued in 1998, to support its conclusion.
“Making arrangements for “changes in care” is expressly covered by the regulations. Significantly, the regulations are silent on whether the facility needs to be one that provides medical treatment. The fact that Carolyn’s daycare is not a specialized facility is not dispositive. What is relevant is that Carolyn has a chronic serious health condition resulting in an inability to perform regular daily activities and Wegelin had to make arrangements to find a suitable daycare that could care for her. Bowmansville daycare center was suitable, but no longer available . . . she had to make arrangements for a change in Carolyn’s care, entitling Wegelin to FMLA leave.”
2. 1998 FMLA Opinion Letter: Although short on factual detail, this rather dated 1998 opinion letter (FMLA-94) found that FMLA applied where an employee requested to take time off to attend “Care Conferences” related to her mother’s health condition because her attendance at these conferences was “clearly essential to the employee’s ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care” to her mother.
Similarly, the DOL was persuaded that the parent attends IEP meetings to help make medical decisions concerning their children’s medically-prescribed speech, physical, and occupational therapy; to discuss their children’s well-being and progress with the providers of such services; and to ensure that the school environment is suitable to their medical, social, and academic needs.
Insights for Employers
This opinion letter requires employers to properly handle IEP meeting requests as leave requests likely covered by the FMLA. Keep in mind the following: