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IEP Meetings Qualify for FMLA Leave

IEP Meetings Qualify for FMLA Leave

A recent opinion letter from the U.S. Department of Labor confirmed that an employee may use intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to attend committee meetings to discuss his/her child's Individualized Education Program (IEP).  

The opinion was prefaced on a particular fact scenario in which the children at issue were under the care of a pediatrician who had prescribed occupational, physical and speech therapy, all of which the school provided. The IEP meetings were held four times per year to review the children’s medical and educational needs and generally how well they were progressing. Participating at the meetings were providers of the aforementioned therapeutic services.

Employees are permitted under FMLA to use such leave on an intermittent basis when medically necessary due to a family member’s serious health condition. “Serious health condition” is defined as an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves in-patient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. An eligible employee of a covered employer may take up to twelve weeks of job-protected, unpaid FMLA leave per year “to care for the spouse, or a son, daughter or parent of the employee, if such spouse, son, daughter or parent has a serious health condition.”

The analysis concluded that in the case at hand, the parent’s attendance at the IEP meetings was “essential to [her] ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care” to the children and that the meetings helped determine medical decisions and ensured the children’s educational environment was suitable to their needs. Also noted was that the prescribing/certifying physician need not be present at such meetings.

While the facts presented in this opinion letter may not apply to all of your students on IEPs, the information may be helpful to some parents who may be struggling with the ability to easily schedule or attend IEP meetings due to their work schedules.

Terri Thomas

Director, Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC. Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS).

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