Family and Medical Leave

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) contain the provisions for family medical leave. As a qualified employer, you are obligated to provide family and medical leave to your employees. Private employers with 50 or more employees during each of any 20 calendar weeks within a year, as well as all public employers, are covered by the family leave laws. Employers are still covered by FMLA/CFRA if they fall to less than 50 employees. However, if employers have less than 50 employees for 20 workweeks in the current or preceding year, they lose their FMLA/CFRA coverage. Furthermore, it is possible for employers to be covered by FMLA/CFRA while their employees are not eligible for FMLA/CFRA leave.

Fundamentally, similar stipulations are contained in the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. There are several provisions that do not run concurrently though. For example, leave due to pregnancy-related conditions and disabilities is only covered by the FMLA. Moreover, registered domestic partners are not provided with leave to care for a domestic partner under the FMLA. The CFRA, however, does allow 12 weeks of leave for eligible employees to care for their registered domestic partner. This is a result of the California Family Code, which states that registered domestic partners possess the same legal rights as spouses.

Under the FMLA, an employee qualifies for leave if he/she: is employed by a qualified employer, has worked for that employer for at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutive), has worked for that employer for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave, and works for an employer with a worksite that consists of 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. The circumstances in which an employee may take family leave include: baby bonding, family care, medical leave, leave for a qualifying exigency, and leave to care for a covered service member. If an employee anticipates a need for family leave, he/she should try and provide a 30-day notice to their employer. It is an employee’s responsibility to make a reasonable effort to schedule a leave at a time that will have a minimal disruption on the company’s operation. Of course, it is sometimes impossible to anticipate and plan for a family leave. Therefore, an employer cannot deny leave based on an employee’s inability to provide advance notice of the need for the leave.