What is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in California?

Our Los Angeles Employment Lawyers Explain

It is indeed comforting to be able to go on leave from a busy job when a close family member is unwell. The United States has the Federal Family Medical Leave Act, which gives employees the right to take leave on account of their own medical problems or those of a family member, including maternity leave and paternity leave. California has also enacted the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which grants its employees similar rights.

Eligibility

As per FEHA, employees may take medical leave for themselves or to take care of their family members if they satisfy the following employment conditions:

  1. They should have been in employment under that particular employer for at least 12 months;
  2. They should have worked for at least 1250 hours in the past 12 months;
  3. The employer must have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of the location where the employee who wants leave works

Subject to fulfillment of these conditions, an employee is eligible for leave up to 12 workweeks in a 12 month period.

Family Members

The family members for whose care an employee may take leave under the Act include spouses, parents and children. However, children under the age of 18 who work are not eligible for leave to take care of their parents. Parents who work also cannot take leave to take care of children who are above 18 years of age.

Care for children

Working parents, including the father, are eligible for leave on arrival of a new child. This includes child birth, adoption of a child or even taking a child into foster care. In case of childbirth, the child need not be sick, mere birth of the child is a reason good enough for taking leave.

Pay during leave

Generally, an employee is not eligible for pay during family care leave. However, if the employee has vacation accrued, it can be used to pay him during the period of family leave. If the employee has taken leave on account of his own illness, sick pay can be used to pay him during the period of leave. However, sick pay cannot be utilized to pay an employee if he has taken leave to take care of a family member.

Medical Benefits during Period of Leave

During leave under the Act, the employee is entitled to be paid for any group health plan like health insurance, disability insurance or any such benefit of which he is already a member.

The employee, however, is not entitled to continue to receive retirement and pension plans during such period and he may make his own contribution to such plans during the period of leave.

Proof

If an employee reasonably anticipates availing of leave, he should give notice to the employer. A doctor’s certificate detailing the date of commencement of the illness as well the estimated duration of the illness should be produced before the employer. If the leave is due to employee’s own illness, the doctor should also certify that the employee would be unable to perform his job. If the leave for the care of a family member, then the doctor should certify the nature of the illness and also the fact that such member requires the help of a family member.

FEHA v. FMLA

Employees in California are entitled to family medical leave under both the federal law as well as its California counterpart. However, an employee cannot seek benefits under both the Acts; that is the time of leave under both the legislations should run concurrently. The employee cannot avail 12 weeks leave under the federal legislations and a further 12 weeks’ leave under the state legislation.

Conclusion

When you have parents and children dependent on you, it is really a comfort to be able to take a few days off work to take care of them when they are unwell. It comes as a matter of right when there is a legislation to support the idea. Employees in California are doubly benefited as they can take advantage of a state legislation, which offers even better rights in contrast to its federal counterpart. If you would like more information about the FMLA, please contact an employment attorney at our law firm now.

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