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The California Family Rights Act: Your Questions, Answered


The California Family Rights Act, also known as CFRA, was established in 1993 by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to ensure that eligible California employees are protected while taking unpaid leave to care for a newborn child, a dependent, sick family member or even their own illnesses. But what is CFRA exactly, and how do you know if you're protected under this California law?

The following article answers these questions and more to help you understand CFRA leave and how it relates to your employee rights in California.

Understanding the California Family Rights Act

What is the California Family Rights Act?

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) amended the 1991 California Family and Medical Leave law and is very similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The CFRA allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of leave within a 12-month period to care for a child; whether that child is a newborn, recently adopted or placed in foster care. The law also makes it legal for eligible employees to care for themselves if they have serious health conditions, (other than pregnancy-related conditions) or to help family members with serious health conditions.

Under the CFRA, a California employer does not have to pay a worker during CFRA leave. However, if an employer requires the worker to use accrued vacation time or another type of paid leave that is not accrued sick leave, then they will have to pay the eligible worker. Similarly, if the eligible California worker elects to use accrued vacation or paid leave time then the employer must pay for the employee's time off.

During an employee's CFRA leave, a California employer is also required to continue health coverage and other benefits (employee benefits plans, pension and retirement plans, accident insurance, etc.).

Who is eligible for CFRA leave?

If you are a California employee who wants to take CFRA leave, you may be eligible under law if your employer does business in the state of California and employs 50 or more part-time or full-time employees - non-profit religious organizations included. You may also be eligible for CFRA leave if you are employed by the State of California or any of the state's political and civil subdivisions, cities or counties - regardless of how many workers are employed at your place of work. The CFRA leave must be used to care for a newborn child, for placement of a child in your family for either adoption or foster care, or to care for a serious health condition of your own, your child, parent or spouse. These conditions also apply to same-sex domestic partners.

Serious health conditions can be either illnesses, injuries or other conditions that involve in-patient care in a medical facility or residential healthcare facility, as well as continuing treatment or supervision by a healthcare provider.

Additionally, a California worker must satisfy the following requirements in order to be eligible for CFRA leave:

- works full-time or part-time in California,
- has worked more than 12 months (52 weeks) of service with his/her employer,
- has worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period before the date of leave begins,
- has worked at a location in which his/her employer employs at least 50 workers within 75 miles of his/her worksite.

Can I use CFRA leave as pregnancy disability leave?

While you cannot use CFRA leave in place of pregnancy leave (PDL), if you are eligible for CFRA leave, you can request CFRA leave of up to 12 weeks for the birth of a child be added to the end of PDL. Under law, there is no need for you or your child to have a serious health condition in order to use CFRA leave for this purpose. Also, there is no requirement that you must be disabled by your pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions before taking your CFRA leave to care for a newborn.

What if my employer fires me while I'm on CFRA leave?

If your employer fails to reinstate you at the end of your CFRA leave, they could be violating California law. Under the CFRA, an eligible employer is required to guarantee you the same or comparable job, plus provide this guarantee in writing if you request it.

However, your employer could deny your job reinstatement if your position ceases to exist (a lay-off), or if you are a key employee (highest paid 10 percent) and the denial of your reinstatement is taken as a necessary preventative measure that could otherwise cause economic harm to your employer. These situations and select others, however, must be provided to you by your employer in which they state the intent to refuse the reinstatement. Your employer is also required to provide you a reasonable opportunity to return to work.

California Family Rights Act: Additional Resources

● The California Family Rights Act via The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing
● Family and Medical Leave Act via The United States Department of Labor
● How does the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) differ from FMLA leave? via SHRM.org
● California Family Leave Laws: Know Your Rights via Legal Aid Society, Employment Law Center
● Caregiver Discrimination in the Workplace: A Growing Problem?

If you feel your employer is violating your employee rights as they relate to the California Family Rights Act or other California family leave laws, rest assured that our passionate employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz are here to help. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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