Family and Medical Leave Act notebook


Robinson Bradford LLP June 22, 2021

Beginning January 1st of 2021, more Californians are now able to take family and medical leave to care for themselves and their family members after the state’s family leave act was significantly expanded. The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) now includes small employers with as few as five employees and allows for the care of extended relatives.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 23% of Californian adults had some type of disability prior to the pandemic. Under federal and state laws, disabilities can include physical or mental impairments that substantially limit major life activities.

If you have been denied leave to care for yourself or a family member’s serious health condition, our team of experts at Robinson Bradford LLP offers comprehensive legal services for victims of illegal employer practices. We will listen to your story, carefully review your case, and fight for the justice you and your family deserve.

Our firm is also proud to serve clients throughout Costa Mesa, Stockton, and Temecula, California — so call or reach out today to learn more!

How Family Leave Can Help

Many people who have suffered from the health effects and stress of the global pandemic now have serious health conditions. There are also many others who are now caring for a family member suffering from an illness or mental impairment that occurred during the pandemic.

In many cases, taking employee leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can help people manage medical appointments, care for oneself or another during an acute episode, or provide care for an infant. Federal and state laws require many employers to provide employee leave to manage disability, but employers have been known to deny FMLA leave — often causing lasting harm to individuals and their families.

Who is Eligible for FMLA Leave?

In California, there are two major laws regulating family and medical leave — the federal FMLA and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Both laws require employers to provide unpaid leave for the care and treatment of a worker’s serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition but vary in their scope and coverage.

FMLA Requirements

The FMLA requires private employers with 50 or more employees to allow said employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for themselves or a seriously ill family member. To qualify for FMLA leave, these employees must have worked 20 or more workweeks in the current or previous year. FMLA provisions also provide for eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks per year to care for an ill or injured service member, while the CFRA does not. Under the FMLA, family members include the employee’s spouse, parent, child, or guardian who stands in place of a parent. The FMLA also requires that employees must work at a worksite where there are 50 or more employees employed by the employer within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite.

CFRA Requirements

Beginning January 1, 2021, the CFRA was significantly expanded to include employers with as few as five employees. The law also significantly expanded the list of relatives who are considered “family members” and now includes grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, adult children, and parents-in-law. Like the FMLA, CFRA also allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off per year. Both laws allow the leave to run either intermittently or consecutively and allow leave to be used for bonding with a newborn or an adopted or fostered child. Both laws require employees to have worked for employers for at least 12 months before the start of the leave. FMLA and CFRA also both require employees to have worked for 1,250 hours in the 12 months before the leave starts.

What Circumstances Qualify for Leave?

Under FMLA, eligible employees may take leave for any of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee.

  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.

  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition.

  • To take medical leave if the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave

In addition to the rights provided by the FMLA and CFRA, California employees working for employers with five or more employees are covered by California’s pregnancy disability leave (PDL) law and must also provide baby bonding time. Employees who are disabled by pregnancy are eligible to take up to four months of PDL, as determined by the employee’s health care provider and the actual length of the disability.

Eligible employees who work for employers covered by federal and state family and medical leave laws can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn or a child who has been placed with the family for adoption or foster care.

Can My Employer Deny FMLA Leave?

Beginning January 1, 2021, California employers with five or more employees must allow eligible employees to take unpaid family and medical leave in order to care for their serious health condition under the CFRA. Employers may have denied leave to employees based on eligibility requirements, but the state of California is one of the few states that require small employers to provide disability leave.

How a Skilled Employment Law Attorney Can Help

At the end of the day, many of the laws surrounding FMLA and CFRA leave can often seem complex and confusing. At Robinson Bradford LLP, we know that it can be stressful and demanding to keep up with leave requirements when you are struggling to care for yourself or a family member. With our team of knowledgeable employment law attorneys on your side, you can have peace of mind knowing you have an advocate fighting for the leave and benefits you deserve. Our firm is also proud to serve clients throughout Costa Mesa, Stockton, and Temecula, California — so call or reach out today to learn more!