An Individualized Education Plan can be a challenging document to develop. Especially in Washington State, where there is no standard form for these documents, IEPs can vary wildly from school to school and student to student.

Based on measurable goals that the student will achieve, an IEP outlines the accommodations and supports that the school district will provide so that the student can be successful despite any mental or physical disability. Detailed IEPs can include everything from speech therapy to dietary needs.

How does the FMLA help parents with IEP arrangements?

The complicated nature of this document makes it especially important that parents are able to attend each IEP meeting and advocate for their child’s care. However, as these meetings are often during the workday, they can cause issues for parents who work full time.

As of August 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor authorized that employees may use the Family and Medical Leave Act intermittent leave to attend IEP meetings. The Department of Labor came to this decision because:

  • The IEP is a required document for any student enrolled in special education services.
  • A disability that requires an IEP qualifies as a serious health condition that requires ongoing care.
  • IEP meetings focus on making arrangements for changes in care.

When must an employer give you time off for an IEP meeting? 

If you have a child who requires an IEP at school, any employer with more than 50 employees cannot deny you unpaid time off in order to attend an IEP meeting. Your employer must allow you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off in a 12-month period. Your employer cannot fire you for using FMLA leave to attend an IEP meeting.

Attending IEP meetings is important, but the IEP process is not something that you have to face alone. You have the right to bring any representative who has specialized knowledge that will benefit your child, including a legal representative with experience in state and federal disability law.