The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is California’s version of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These laws give qualifying employees a right to take leave to care for their own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a family member. Fortunately for Californians, in most situations CFRA provides better protection for employees than does the FMLA. CFRA applies to companies with 50 or more employees working within a 75 mile square radius. CFRA allows an employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid "family care and medical leave" if the employee has worked for the company for more than a year, and has at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous year. (§ 12945.2, subd. (a).)
The reasons for taking CFRA leave include the the birth or adoption of a child, serious illness of a family member, or an employee's own serious health condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the employees job. (§ 12945.2, subd. (c)(3)(C)) CFRA defines a serious health condition as "an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either of the following: (A) Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility. (B) Continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider." (§ 12945.2, subd. (c)(8).)”
In order to get the leave an employee must provide his/her employer with reasonable advance notice of the need for the leave. However, reasonable advance notice is situational. For example, a person does not necessarily know when they are going to be needing to miss work with a serious illness or injury, so in situations where the need for the leave is unexpected, then the employee should give the employer notice of his need for the leave immediately upon knowing themselves. The notice can be verbal or in writing and the employee does not necessarily need to mention the law. The employee should tell his/her employer the reason why they need the leave as well as when the leave will begin and how long it is expected to last. While the law allows for oral requests for the leave, be smart and always make the request in writing, so your employer cannot deny the request was made later. The California Code of Regulations, title 2, § 7297.4(a)(1) requires the employer to inquire of the employee requesting potential CFRA qualifying leave to obtain the necessary details to determine whether the leave is eligible for CFRA protection.
In response for a request of CFRA protected leave, an employer may require the employee provide certification of the need for the leave, within fifteen days of the employees initial request. The certification usually means the employer requests the employee bring a doctor’s note certifying the reason for the leave and how long the leave will last.
An employee is entitled to up to 12 months of CFRA leave per year. The employer can calculate the year in different ways. Some employers use a calendar year and other use a “rolling 12 month period” to determine year. However, the employer needs to notify the employee the way in which he calculates a year under CFRA before the leave of the employee commences. The employer cannot after the fact use a method of calculation of the year, which is detrimental to the employee, if that method of calculation was not established before the leave started. Further, leave does not necessarily need to be taken in large blocks. CFRA allows employees to take intermittent leave. This means an employee can notify their employer that they have a serious health condition that requires them to miss work a few days per week, or per month. Qualifying intermittent leave is protected under CFRA as long as the employer knows that when the employee misses a few days of work it is because of the employee’s chronic serious medical condition. Always inform the employer in writing if you have a chronic serious health condition, and if you need to miss a few days of work because of it, always inform your employer that the work was missed because of your chronic serious health condition.
In most circumstances, when an employee returns from taking qualifying CFRA leave, the employer must provide the employee with a job in the same or a comparable positon in the same geographic location as the job the employee held prior to the leave. Further, if the employer cannot later on retaliate against an employee because of taking qualifying CFRA leave.
If you have questions about your right to take CFRA leave, ask a qualified wrongful termination attorney
to help you navigate through the process correctly. Many employment law firms have telephone lines where you can get important information about your right to take CFRA leave, all for free.