FMLA Leave for School Visits and Child Care

Can I Use FMLA Time to Visit My Child’s School?

Yes, if your child has a qualifying “serious medical condition.”  The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently issued guidance providing that the FMLA (the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Federal law providing for such leave) can be used by parents who need to visit a child’s school in order to attend a Committee on Special Education (CSE) meeting to discuss an Individualized Education Program (IEP).[1]  Your employer can require that you provide a copy of a certification issued by a health care provider and meeting certain criteria to support the leave request.[2]  The decision is very new (dating from August 2019), so it is not yet clear if the same approach will be taken under New York State’s Paid Family Leave program.

What if I Only Want to Use a Couple of Hours of FMLA Time So That I Can Attend A Meeting at School?

You can do that!  FMLA leave can be taken in increments of hours (or even less) depending on your employer’s policies about leave[3] and up to the maximum sum of leave for which you are eligible.  New York Paid Family Leave must be taken in full-day increments,[4] so this could limit its use for the purpose of attending a meeting at your child’s school if just a couple of hours is needed.

Is FMLA Leave Time Paid?

Under Federal law, it is not required that it be paid, just that it be available.  An employer may, however, require you to use some or all paid leave during the FMLA period.[5]  In New York State, however, most employees now contribute through wage deductions to obtain Paid Family Leave insurance through their employers.  As of 2019, employees may be eligible for up to ten (10) weeks of such leave (which will gradually increase to twelve (12) weeks in succeeding years).  However, the maximum weekly benefit is limited to 55% of the Statewide Average Weekly wage, so the 2019 maximum weekly benefit is capped at $746.41, depending on your salary.[6]

How Do I Let My Employer Know That I Want to Use FMLA Leave?

Under both Federal law and New York State law, you should let your employer know at least 30 days in advance.  Or, if you have less notice than that, including if an emergency arises, you should let your employer know as soon as possible.  Ideally, the same day you find out you need to use FMLA leave.

How Do I Know If I Am Eligible for Leave Under the FMLA or New York State law?

To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must work for a “covered employer” (including private sector employers with at least 50 employees, public agencies, and schools), you must have worked for that employer for at least 12 months, you must have at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12-month period immediately before seeking leave, and you must work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.[7]  Under New York State law, as long as you have worked long enough, most employees who work for private employers are eligible since employers with just one employee participate in New York Paid Family Leave program.[8]

What Else Should I Know About FMLA Leave?

There are a lot of steps you need to follow to comply with FMLA leave requirements, so you should work with your employer to make sure you do all the things you need to do to be eligible and retain your eligibility for FMLA leave.  In addition, the requirements can vary depending on whether you are covered by federal FMLA leave or New York State Paid Family Leave program.

If you would like to discuss your situation with us, please feel free to call or email us at any time. You will be on the phone with an attorney within 24 hours.