California employees have many job-related responsibilities, one of which is showing up to work when they are scheduled. However, serious illness and other major life events may require that an employee take an extended period of time off work to care for themselves or another family member. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as well as the California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA), allows employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave, with the assurance that they will not lose their job for taking time off.
What life circumstances warrant FMLA/CFRA?
Under the FMLA/CFRA, eligible employees (employees employed for at least 12 months for at least 1,250 hours leading up to the start of the leave) of covered employers may be entitled to FMLA/CFRA benefits under certain circumstances. FMLA/CFRA leave may be granted to employees in the following circumstances:
- A serious health condition which prevents the employee from doing the essential functions of their job.
- The need to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition.
- The birth of a child and/or the need to care for a newborn child during his or her first year of life.
- The adoption/fostering of a child and/or the need to care for the child during the year following the placement of the child.
- Any qualifying exigency arising from spouse, child, or parent being a covered military member on ‘covered active duty.
An employee may also receive 26 workweeks of leave in one 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember spouse, child, parent, or next of kin.
Denial of FMLA leave
According to the FMLA/CFRA, employers cannot deny an employee’s request for leave, as long as the employer has more than 50 employees and the employee meets FMLA eligibility requirements and has a qualified need for leave. Employers are also legally not permitted to retaliate or terminate an eligible employee for requesting FMLA leave.
An employee may file an employment law claim against their employer if their request for leave is wrongfully denied and an employee’s FMLA leave or took negative action against them for taking the leave they are entitled to. Employers facing these claims may defend against them by proving that the employee was not entitled to leave or that there were legitimate reasons for taking action against the employee.