Parents’ need to attend CSE/IEP meetings of a child with a serious health condition is now considered a qualifying reason to take intermittent FMLA leave.

Public and private sector employers should take heed of a recent United States Department of Labor opinion letter. In the August 8 letter, the Department considered whether a parent of children with serious health conditions, who attends Committee on Special Education (“CSE”) meetings at her children’s school to discuss the children’s Individualized Education Plans (“IEP”), is entitled to job-protected FMLA leave. The Opinion notes that children’s serious health conditions had previously been certified by a health care provider in accordance with the FMLA; and that the certification supported the parent’s need to take intermittent leave to care for her children and bring them to medical appointments.

Having previously received certifications from the health care provider supporting the children’s serious health conditions, the parent’s employer had approved FMLA leave for the care of and medical appointments of her children. The parent’s FMLA leave, however, was not approved for four CSE/IEP meetings per year held at her children’s school.

The Department considered that the school provides her children with pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech and physical therapy in addition to the presence of many service providers and educators at these meetings to address the children’s educational and medical needs. The Opinion found that because these meetings involved medical decisions, the well-being and progress of her children and the opportunity to ensure their school environment was suitable to their medical, social and academic needs, attendance at these meetings was part of the parent providing physical or psychological care for her children.

Employers should require that the child’s serious health condition be supported by a complete and valid certification by a health care provider. The Department of Labor website includes its 380-F form for FMLA certification. The employer may also require an employee to reasonably schedule foreseeable FMLA leave on an intermittent basis in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.

This Opinion is limited to CSE/IEP meetings only and does not suggest a far-reaching right to attend other meetings, at school, such as parent-teacher conferences or meetings related to student discipline. As the school year is set to begin within the next few weeks, employers must be prepared to address these types of leave requests.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Melville, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.