Details of the Opinion
On August 8th, 2019, the US Department of Labor (DOL) issued an opinion that an employee’s time off to attend IEP meetings is to be designed as FMLA. The DOL’s opinion is based on an analysis of the purpose of IEP meetings which outlines the program of special instruction, support, and support services for children with a disability as part of their educational program. The DOL concluded that IEP meetings are connected to the child’s disability which meets the FMLA’s definition of serious health condition. As such, FMLA permits parents to take time off to care for a child with a serious health condition.
Employers that are covered by FMLA should ensure that their leave policies and procedures allow for the use of intermittent leave for IEPs. Below are some best practices for complying with an employee’s request for leave:
- Treat an employee’s request for FMLA leave to attend an IEP meeting in the same manner as you treat all other requests for intermittent FMLA.
- Develop procedures to determine if an employee’s request for leave is for an IEP meeting or a regular school visit. Other types of school meetings, such as disciplinary meetings or attendance at school functions including field trips or concerts would not be covered under FMLA. A best practice is to follow any existing company policy for determining if intermittent absences are for FMLA purposes or another reason.
- Require documentation of the need for leave and require employees to provide appropriate notice of the need for leave. However, be cautious about requesting more documentation than is necessary to designate leave. Whether the IEP exists should not be the focus of the validation of the need for leave. The best practice is to request that the medical certification form (Form WH-380-F) states the need for leave to attend IEP meetings.
- Train managers and supervisors to understand how this new guidance affects leave requests, so that they are not automatically declining an employee’s request for time off without considering the employee’s ability to take FMLA.
HR Works Can Help
HR Works offers Benefits Administration Services that are designed to make it less burdensome for employers to comply with federal and state leave laws. In addition, subscribers of the HR Works Virtual Helpline may contact a Compliance Specialist for questions related to FMLA, FMLA forms, and leave tracking.
Employers who would like information on our Helpline Service or Benefits Administration Services may contact the Virtual Helpline at 585-381-8340 Opt. 1 or via email at Helpline@hrworks-inc.com for a referral to a HR Works Business Development team member.
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