August 09, 2019

Gerald Hathaway and Stephanie Gournis Speak with SHRM about IEP Meetings under the FMLA

SHRM, a leading professional human resources association, spoke with Drinker Biddle partners Gerald T. Hathaway and Stephanie Dodge Gournis on the August 8 Department of Labor (DOL) opinion letter permitting parents to take Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off to attend special education meetings—called individualized education program (IEP) meetings—for children with serious health conditions.

“This adds to a long list of the reasons why someone can take FMLA leave,” noted Hathaway.

In the DOL’s opinion letter, a woman received certification from her children’s doctors supporting her need to take periodic leave to care for her two children. Her employer approved intermittent FMLA leave to take the children to medical appointments, but denied her request to use FMLA time off to attend IEP meetings.

The DOL concluded that the mother’s need to attend IEP meetings is a qualifying reason for taking intermittent FMLA leave.

SHRM reported that employers can require employees to help identify IEP meeting times that are the least disruptive. But if an employee can show that meetings must occur at a specific time or day as requested, the employer must provide FMLA leave, absent special circumstances unique to the employer’s business needs, according to Gournis.

Many employers would give workers time off for IEP meetings even without the opinion letter, Hathaway noted. “But the community of parents having children with special needs is fairly well-connected, in social media and other resources,” he said, “and so this opinion letter should become well-known fairly rapidly” as the school year starts—increasing the number of FMLA requests.

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