As of August 9, 2019, the Department of Labor weighed in on this matter.
The case that resolved this question began with two children who had serious health conditions that required them to be driven to and from doctors’ appointments. The employer of one of the parents gave them time off to transport them to their occupational, speech, and physical therapy appointments.
These services were approved by the children’s school and were contained in their IEPs. As such, the IEPs were monitored and reviewed four times within the school year with the parents being part of the process. Also in attendance were to be the children’s speech pathologist, school psychologist, occupational or physical therapist, and the several school administrators and teachers on the children’s child study teams.
The specific parent was granted leave from their job to attend these meetings, which obviously required extensive coordination to achieve attendance by all involved. But the other did not receive permission to attend.
At this point, both parents requested the Department of Labor weigh in on this inequity, and it issued an opinion letter that such permission was to be found in both statute and case law.
The Department held that physical care for a family member includes making arrangement for changes in their care, and cited Wegelin v. Reading Hosp. & Med. Ctr. Where a mother with an autistic child had to interview daycare facilities when she had to switch her child’s location of care without notice. The court held that it was permissible for this mother to be granted leave to attend to this emergency.
A 1998 Opinion Letter similarly found that it was permissible for an employee to miss work to attend “care conferences” for her elderly mother where medical, speech, physical, and psychological services would be determined.
So the answer is: YES.
But please note the following:
1. You should provide notice for a foreseeable leave of absence, and provide your employer with any appropriate certification to support your request. We are not speaking about a last-minute request here.
2. You should be specific that this is a meeting concerning your child’s IEP or other serious matters under the IDEA, and not merely a parent/teacher conference, which can be re-scheduled.
3. What about 504 meetings? This was not covered in the recent Labor Department finding, or in the supporting sources. You might or might not receive permission for these meetings, but you might explain to your employer that a 504 is quite similar to an IEP meeting.