Family and Medical Leave Act in California

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 What Is the Family and Medical Leave Act in California?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that allows eligible employees to take unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. In California, there’s a state-level counterpart that often complements FMLA, ensuring that employees have the opportunity for medical leave of absence without fear of job loss.

Both the federal FMLA and California’s provisions aim to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families. However, understanding the nuances of each can be crucial for both employers and employees.

If you find yourself facing medical leave disputes or are uncertain about your rights and entitlements, it might be beneficial to consult with an employment attorney in California. A California attorney can advocate for your rights in case of any violations by your employer.

Who Is Eligible for FMLA Leave?

The Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to support employees during significant life events by providing job-protected leave. Understanding its eligibility criteria is vital for employees who wish to utilize these provisions and for employers who are obligated to provide them. Let’s dive into the specifics.

1. Duration of Employment

An employee must have been employed with the company for at least 12 months. However, these 12 months do not need to be consecutive. For instance, if an employee worked for six months, left, and then returned to the same employer for another six months, they would meet this criterion.

2. Hours of Service

The employee should have clocked in at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the start of the leave. This roughly translates to 24 hours per week over a year. Both part-time and full-time employees can meet this criterion, but it may exclude some occasional or seasonal workers.

3. Employer Size and Location

FMLA applies to workplaces where at least 50 employees are employed within a 75-mile radius. This criterion ensures that smaller businesses, which may face significant operational challenges when an employee takes extended leave, are exempt. For larger organizations, the presence of 50 employees within the specified radius means that the business has the structural support to manage during the employee’s absence.

4. Qualifying Conditions

Even if the employment criteria are met, the reason for requesting FMLA leave must be a qualifying one. These include:

  • Serious Health Conditions: This could range from conditions requiring overnight hospital stays to chronic conditions that cause occasional periods of incapacity. Examples might include cancer, severe arthritis, or kidney disease.
  • Childbirth and Newborn Care: Both mothers and fathers can take FMLA leave for the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn child within one year of birth.
  • Caring for a Family Member: If a spouse, child, or parent has a serious health condition, the employee can avail FMLA leave to provide care. It’s important to note that “serious health condition” here would have the same definition as when the employee seeks leave for their own health condition.

Eligibility for FMLA leave is not just about the length of time with an employer or the number of hours worked. It’s a composite of criteria designed to balance an employee’s need for extended leave with the operational realities of businesses.

Before making any decisions, employees should fully understand these nuances, and when in doubt, seeking guidance from HR professionals or legal counsel can be beneficial.

Does FMLA Apply to Every Business?

No, FMLA does not apply to every business. Only employers who have 50 or more employees for at least 20 workweeks in the current or preceding year are required to provide FMLA leaves to their employees. It’s worth noting that California employment law might have additional provisions or criteria for businesses within the state.

How Long Does California Pay For FMLA?

California has its own state law called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is similar to FMLA but has some differences. CFRA also provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons. However, CFRA does not require employers to pay employees during their leave either.

However, California also has a program called Paid Family Leave (PFL), which is a part of the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. PFL provides eligible employees with partial wage replacement for up to eight weeks per year when they need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member, bond with a new child, or participate in a qualifying event due to a family member’s military deployment.

PFL does not provide job protection or guarantee the right to take leave. It only provides benefit payments. To be eligible for PFL, you need to have earned at least $300 from which SDI deductions were withheld during the past 12 months. The amount of your benefit payments depends on your weekly wages and ranges from 60% to 70% of your average weekly earnings, up to a maximum set by state law. As of January 1, 2023, the maximum weekly benefit is $1,620.

You can apply for PFL online or by mail through the Employment Development Department (EDD). You can also check your eligibility and calculate your benefit payments on the EDD website.

Am I Eligible for Family and Medical Leave In California?

To be eligible for family and medical leave in California, you need to meet certain requirements under both federal and state laws. The federal law is the FMLA, and the state law is called the CFRA. Both laws provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for certain family and medical reasons.

As we went over earlier, some of the requirements to be eligible for FMLA and CFRA are:

  • You work for an employer that is covered by the laws: FMLA covers employers that have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, while CFRA covers employers that have 5 or more employees.
  • You have worked for your employer for at least one year and have at least 1,250 hours of service in the past 12 months.
  • You need to take leave for a qualifying reason: FMLA and CFRA allow you to take leave for your own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. However, CFRA has a broader definition of family members than FMLA.
    • CFRA includes your spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, while FMLA only includes your spouse, child, or parent.

You may be eligible for family and medical leave in California if you meet these requirements. However, you should also be aware of some other factors that may affect your eligibility or your rights under the laws, such as:

  • How to request and certify your leave: You need to give your employer a reasonable notice of your need for leave and provide a certification from a healthcare provider if your leave is for a serious health condition.
  • How to coordinate your leave with other benefits: You may be able to use your paid sick leave, vacation leave, or other accrued time off during your unpaid leave. You may also be eligible for partial wage replacement through the PFL program or the SDI program.
  • How to protect your job and health insurance: Your employer must restore you to the same or equivalent position when you return from leave. Your employer must also maintain your health insurance coverage during your leave as if you were still working.

Do I Need An Employment Attorney for Help With Family and Medical Leave in California?

If you are uncertain about your rights and entitlements, it might be beneficial to consult with an employment attorney in California. An experienced California attorney can provide clarity on how federal and state laws intersect and can advocate for your rights in case of any violations by your employer.

Consult with a knowledgeable California employment lawyer through LegalMatch to ensure your rights are protected.

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