Employee Rights to Family and Medical Leave in California

By Assaf Lichtash

In 2015, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act gave qualified employees the right to accrue paid sick time for at least six days per year. However, what happens if an employee has a serious illness or medical condition and requires more than a couple of days off? Having an illness, injury, or sick family member is difficult on its own, but can be significantly harder if you worry about being fired for taking the necessary time off from work. For this reason, both federal and state laws protect certain employees by giving them the right to take leave from work for qualified reasons while their position at work remains protected.

Who is qualified?

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to the following types of employees:

Those working at a company with at least 50 workers located within 75 miles;
Those who have worked for the company for one year or more; and
Those who have worked 1,250 hours or more in the previous year.

​When is leave available?

In order for you job to be protected, you must have one of the following reasons for extended taking leave from work:

Serious illness or injury;
Caring for a family member with a serious illness or injury;
Caring for a newborn baby or new adopted child;
As part of a reasonable accommodation for a temporary or permanent mental or physical disability; or
Incapacitation due to pregnancy or childbirth (under the FMLA and the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL)).

Generally, leave is capped at 12 weeks per year, though this may be extended due to pregnancy complications or certain disability accommodations.

What are your rights under the law in regard to leave?

When you notify your employer of your intent to take FMLA/CFRA for a qualified reason, your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you with any type of adverse employment action due to your leave. Adverse employment actions can include demotion, denial of deserved promotion or raise, termination, discipline, transfer to a less favorable position, and more. Your employer further cannot treat you differently because you took leave time.

Unfortunately, you do not have the right under the law to be paid for you time off under FMLA or CFRA. For this reason, you will only receive pay during this time if your employer has a policy to provide paid leave to employees. An employer may also allow you to apply for paid vacation or sick time to help provide payment during family or medical leave.

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