Recently the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released an opinion letter saying an employee should be granted intermittent leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to attend school meetings related to her children’s health. The children had medically certified serious health conditions, and the employee was allowed intermittent leave to take the children to medical appointments. However, the employer denied FMLA leave to attend school meetings to discuss individualized special educational and medical needs, as well as progress reports, for each child.
In its opinion letter, the DOL noted that caring for a family member with a serious health condition includes making arrangements for changes in care, such as deciding whether to keep a parent on life support or finding daycare for an autistic child. More importantly, and in line with a prior opinion letter, the DOL found that discussions with school and therapy providers about medical and environmental needs, even without a doctor present, were “clearly essential to the employee’s ability to provide appropriate physical or psychological care” (DOL Opinion Letter, FMLA2019-2-A, August 2019).
Tips: When an employee requests intermittent leave, don’t assume that only medical appointments for a serious health condition are covered. Instead, you need to determine whether the leave requested is integral to the physical or mental care of the family member, which can include meetings, trainings, or family gatherings. If you have questions about whether an employee’s request may qualify for intermittent leave under the FMLA, call your Vigilant employment attorney.