Time off for special-needs child

Q. Our office secretary is the backbone of our company. Her son is in special education, and she periodically asks for time off to attend various school conferences and meetings about his progress. I don’t want to be stingy, but her absences really create problems for us. Do I have to allow her to take time off for these meetings?

A. You don’t, provided that you treat her consistently. But tread carefully. As the mother of a disabled child, she is “associated with” a disabled person and has legal protection from discrimination. If you allow other employees to take time off during the day, then you should afford her the same privileges. FMLA may cover the time if she needs to attend appointments to discuss her son’s disability with a counselor or physician.