Wrongful Termination: Family and Medical Leave in California

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.

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

The point of family leave is to ensure that employees are protected from being fired while on leave. You will be restored to your same or comparable job after you take your leave.

Am I Eligible for Medical Leave?

In the state of California, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is administered by the California Civil Rights Department 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 you take leave, California requires you to notify your employer. While FMLA requires a notice of at least 30 days, California simply requires the employee to provide reasonable notice if leave is predictable.

Under Federal and California family and medical leave laws, eligible employees are permitted to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave within twelve months for specific reasons such as:

  • Bonding with a newborn, adopted child, or child placed in foster care
  • During a very serious health condition
  • To care for a seriously ill family member

You can take intermittent leave in California. New mothers, for example, can take bonding leave in separate blocks of 2 weeks as long as it is within one year of her child’s birth.

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

Should I Hire an Employment Attorney?

Hiring a Potter Handy, LLP labor and employment attorney can help you figure out what leave you can take and discuss the difference between California and federal laws.

If you feel that your employer has mistreated you while on leave or after returning due to your legally permitted family leave, you could also be assisted by an attorney in determining the course of action.

If you feel you have been released from your job unlawfully, call Potter Handy, LLP (415) 534-1911 or email us to schedule a free, confidential consultation.