What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

Los Angeles Employment and FMLA Lawyers Explain Possible Violations

It is 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 (FMLA) that gives employees the right to take leave on account of their own medical problems or those of a family member while protecting their right to return to their jobs or positions of equal pay and benefits when the leave is over. California has also enacted the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) that is part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and gives employees similar family leave rights as the FMLA, but the differences between these laws are important to workers dealing with health issues.

How Does FMLA Work? Determining Eligibility for FMLA

Both the CFRA and the FMLA cover all public agencies and private companies that employ 50 or more employees for 20 workweeks or more a year. Employees may be entitled to take medical leave for themselves or to take care of their family members if they meet the following FMLA requirements:

  • The company must employ at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the location where the employee who wants to take leave works.
  • The employee worked for at least 1,250 hours within the past 12 months before the leave start date, or about 24 hours a week.
  • The employee should have been employed with that particular employer for at least 12 months, which does not need to be worked consecutively to count unless the break in employment was longer than seven years.

If a worker is found eligible for family medical leave, that employee can take up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period of unpaid leave. Employees may also be allowed to take intermittent FMLA leave or work reduced schedules if their employer agrees under certain circumstances. Do you qualify for FMLA leave under these circumstances? Schedule a free attorney consultation with our Los Angeles employment law firm today.

What Reasons Can You Use FMLA?

Workers may take a period of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act for reasons covered by the FMLA act. Some employers may require you to use your paid time off before using, or to cover some of the FMLA leave. Common qualifying conditions protected by family medical leave laws include:

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 childbirth, adoption of a child or even taking a child into foster care. Some employers may count unpaid FMLA leave as a portion of maternity leave or paternity leave in addition to workers using personal days or short-term disability.

Pregnancy Disability Leave in California

An important distinction between the FMLA and the CFRA is that the CFRA does not provide leave for pregnancy disability, which may allow for leave prior to childbirth. However, under the FEHA, employees disabled by their pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to this may be eligible to take up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) if they meet certain requirements.

Talk to our attorneys if you need help determining which employment laws apply to your situation, or if your employer is unlawfully denying you family medical leave.

Is FMLA Paid or Unpaid Leave?

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

Other laws, such as the California Paid Family Leave/Family Temporary Disability Insurance program from the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program, may offer up to six week of partial wages for employees with new children (through childbirth, adoption or foster) and to care of sick family members. California is one of the only states in the nation to have this program.

Do I Get Health Insurance While on FMLA?

During leave under the FMLA act, employers must maintain any group health plan like health insurance, disability insurance or any such benefit of which employees are already members. Companies who fail to continue insurance or cut off insurance coverage without giving adequate notice to an employee on family medical leave may be found in violation.

Can an Employer Require Proof for FMLA?

If an employee reasonably anticipates needing to take family medical leave, he or she 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 or her job. If the leave is 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 the employee.

Differences Between FEHA and FMLA

Employees in California are entitled to family medical leave under both the federal law as well as California family leave. However, an employee cannot seek benefits under both the FMLA and CFRA, meaning that these leaves must run concurrently and not back to back. The employee cannot take 12 weeks family and medical leave under FMLA and a further 12 weeks of California family leave under the state legislation.

Employers have obligations under California’s FEHA to workers who have used all of their unpaid FMLA and CFRA leave. Employees cannot be wrongfully terminated due to exhausting their leave time but are still unable to return to work because they need more time to recover. All employers must provide reasonable accommodations to workers in this situation if it would not cause undue hardship, whether this means granting more unpaid family leave time or having workers return to work with restrictions.

Have a Family Medical Leave Claim Against Your Employer? Ask FMLA Lawyers

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. Your employer cannot deny your right to take this time if you are entitled. Employees in California are doubly benefited as they can take advantage of a state legislation, which may offer better rights in contrast to its federal counterpart.  If you would like more information about the FMLA, please contact a Los Angeles employment attorney at our law firm now.