The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is a federal labor law administered by the U.S. Department of Labor that is afforded to certain employees in all fifty states. It requires certain employers to provide its employees with job-protected unpaid leave for specified family and medical reasons.

Am I An Eligible Employee for Unpaid Medical Leave?

In the state of California, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is administered by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing and is based on the federal FMLA. It applies to private employers with 50 or more employees on the payroll during each of any 20 or more calendar weeks.

Employees who work for covered employers are eligible so long as they have worked for their employer for 1,250 hours in the previous 12-month period and have been employed for a total of at least 12 months on the date on which leave is to commence. Compared to Federal FMLA, CFRA provides broader protection for employees.

When Can I Take My Leave?

Pursuant to both Federal and California family and medical leave laws, eligible employees are allowed to take 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a twelve-month period for specific reasons, such as:

  • Bonding with a newborn, adopted child, or child placed in foster care;
  • To care for the employee’s family member who is seriously ill; and/or
  • The employee’s own serious health condition.

Qualifying employees can also take twenty-six workweeks of leave during a twelve-month period off to care for a covered service member who has a serious injury or illness if the employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin. This is known as military caregiver leave.

It’s important to note the discrepancy between Federal and California law regarding military caregiver leave. Whereas federal law allows employees to take off up to 26 weeks in a 12-month period, California only permits the employee to take 12 months off in a one-year period. In that regard, California is more restrictive.

Must I Take My Leave All at Once?

No. California allows you to take intermittent leave. For example, new mothers can take bonding leave in separate 2-week blocks so long as it’s within one year of the birth of her child.

Can I Lose My Job While on Leave?

No. The point of family leave is to provide job protection to employees from being fired while on leave. After you take your leave, you will be reinstated to your same or comparable job.

Are There Any Other California Benefits That I Can Use?

California also has the Paid Family Leave (PFL). PFL provides up to 6 weeks of partial pay to employees who take time off from work in order to care for a gravely ill family member, including the employee’s child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. The employee can also take the time off to bond with a new child, whether the child is born to the employee, a foster child placed with the person, or adopted.

When Should I Request Leave?

California requires you to notify your employer when you are going to take leave. Whereas FMLA requires at least 30 days’ notice, California simply requires that if leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide reasonable notice.

Should I Hire an Employment Attorney?

Hiring a labor and employment attorney in California can help you determine what leave you can take and discuss the difference between federal and California laws. If you feel that you have been mistreated by your employer while on leave or after returning because of your legally permissible family leave, a California attorney can also help you determine possible courses of action.