When it comes to using FMLA for to care for a child with Autism or another special need getting the approval and knowing when you can use the leave is often complicated. Here is a general overview of eligibility for FMLA and what situations FMLA can be used for.
The Department of Labor ‘s overview of FMLA allows leave for 12 workweeks in a 12 month period for care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition which, as it relates to Autism, is defined as “chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when you or your family member are incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider at least twice a year.”
You are entitled to FMLA if you:
- Work for a covered employer;
- Have worked 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the start of leave; (special hours of service rules apply to airline flight crew members)
- Work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles; and
- Have worked for the employer for 12 months. The 12 months of employment are not required to be consecutive in order for the employee to qualify for FMLA leave.
This week I made a phone call to the Seattle Department of Labor to get clarification on what FMLA can be used for when it comes to Autism and other related special needs. After running through several scenarios it was clear:
What it really boils down to is what the medical certification from your child’s doctor says. The more specific the doctor is on the medical certification the better. It should say what the leave is needed for and the approximate frequency of the leave.
In most situations it is the intermittent leave that will be taken where you will work a reduced schedule or take leave in separate blocks of time. If at all possible and the leave is planned it should be taken with advanced notice to your employer and in a way that doesn’t disrupt their business needs.
These are some of the situations that often come up when caring for a child with Autism or other special need:
Leave for medical appointments, speech and occupational therapy, mental health counselors, etc.?
YES! As long as the certification from the doctor states that leave is needed to attend these appointments FMLA can be used for that purpose.
Leave for IEP meetings or school meetings?
YES, but it must be relating to the condition AND written on the certification. With Autism often comes behavior issues or special accommodations that are needed so situations like an IEP meeting or informal school meeting would qualify as long as the doctor says on the certification that it is needed.
Leave to pick up a child from school when you get an emergency call?
POSSIBLY, if the emergency is something that is caused by their condition. If they are becoming violent or aggressive and it is caused by their condition, yes. If they have a fever or are coughing it probably wouldn’t qualify unless there are underlying reasons related to their condition (ex: the illness is negatively affecting their behavior because they are unable to control their reactions to the discomfort they feel because of their Autism). Just be sure the medical certification includes emergency, intermittent leave.
Leave to take a child to or from school?
POSSIBLY. Leave for this purpose needs to be related to the condition AND clearly stated on the medical certification. If your child can’t or won’t ride the bus or use another method of transportation because of something that is related to their condition (behavior, lack of accommodations, etc.) and the doctor states this on the certification then the leave would be allowed. If the only reason that you are transporting them is because of convenience then it would more than likely not be allowed.
If you have any questions, would like clarification on an issue, or want to file a complaint you can contact the Department of Labor directly by calling 1-866-487-9243.