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Understanding the Difference Between FMLA/CFRA Rights and Paid Leave At Your California Workplace

Posted by Brian Vogel | Oct 16, 2017 | 0 Comments

California workers enjoy some of the greatest employee protections in the country with regard to  leave in time of family medical emergency, sickness, and childbirth. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has been federal law since 1993, and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) both protect the rights of workers to maintain their employment even when they need to be away from work. In addition, many workers in California are also entitled to paid leave from their employers, a new right passed into law in 2015, making California one of the few states in the country to guarantee the right. When employers fail to honor their obligations under the FMLA, CFRA, or California's paid leave laws, employees may have the right to pursue an employment lawsuit against the employer for financial recovery.

Rights Under the FMLA and CFRA

In general, the FMLA and CFRA cover much of the same ground in preventing employers from terminating or demoting employees who exercise their rights to leave. The laws apply to employers who employ 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee's worksite. An employee is eligible to take leave when he or she has worked for 12 months for the employer, and has logged at least 1,250 hours during that time (approx. 25 hours a week or more on average).

An eligible employee can take medical leave under the laws for up to 12 weeks, which can be all at once, or in increments of days, weeks, or even hours. An employee caring for an injured service member can take up to 26 weeks of leave. Situations which an employee can use to justify taking the leave include:

  • Childbirth or “Baby Bonding” with a newly placed adopted child
  • Pregnancy and pregnancy-related complications
  • Recovery from a serious health condition
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition

The employer is not required to pay the employee for this time away, although the employer should follow any internal guidelines regarding leave and pay.

Rights to Paid Leave in California

In addition to the rights to unpaid leave, many California workers are also entitled to a more limited number of days of paid leave, to be paid at their normal rate for a day's work. Both part-time and full-time workers are entitled to receive three days of paid leave to deal with their own illness or injury or that of a family member.

Workers must have worked for at least 90 days before using paid sick leave, but will begin accruing sick days from their first day of employment. The rate of accrual is one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Thus, to accrue the full three days of sick leave (or 24 hours, based on 8-hour days), a worker will need to have worked 720 hours, or 30 weeks of 40-hour work weeks.

Contact a Pasadena Employment Law Attorney Today

If your employer has failed to honor your rights to paid or unpaid leave, The Law Offices of Brian I. Vogel is here to help. With three decades of experience in bringing hundreds of actions on behalf of California workers, Brian Vogel has the skills, tenacity, and deep knowledge of California and federal employment law to fight for justice on your behalf. Contact him today to schedule a consultation regarding your wrongful termination.

About the Author

Brian Vogel

Working Hard for Workers' Rights Brian I. Vogel graduated with a philosophy degree from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1982 and with a law degree from Benjamin Cardozo School of Law in New York in 1986 and has been a licensed California attorney since 1987. Employment attorney Brian Vo...


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