Guide To California Workplace Leave Laws
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Guide To California Workplace Leave Laws

Guide To California Workplace Leave Laws

At times, life’s circumstances can make it necessary to take time off from work. If you become seriously ill or need to care for a sick loved one, the last thing you should have to worry about is whether or not you will be fired from your job. However, this is an unfortunate reality some employees face during their time of need. Federal and statewide leave laws were created to protect employees and hold employers accountable. Some employers may blatantly deny their employees’ rights to job-protected leave while others may intentionally keep their employees ignorant about these policies.

Regardless of the reason an employer does not adhere to the proper leave laws, eligible employees are protected from this form of oversight or discrimination. The following guide provides an in-depth overview of federal and statewide leave laws for California employers and workers. If you believe you or a loved one is the victim of workplace discrimination, you may be entitled to compensation. The experienced labor and employment attorneys at Manukyan Law Firm are standing by to discuss your case and develop a strategy to fight for the settlement your family deserves.

Federal Workplace Leave Laws

If your family is facing difficult circumstances, such as critical illness, the last thing you should have to worry about is the possibility of losing your job. In 1993, President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act into law to protect employees from this exact scenario. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that governs workplace leave. Under the FMLA, eligible employees are granted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. This leave period can be granted for employees facing illness, those taking care of a family member, or to give new parents time to bond with a child after birth or adoption.

As the world contends with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, additional laws have been enacted to provide job-protected and paid leave to employees who are facing difficulties related to the coronavirus. The following overview provides in-depth information for the FMLA and FFCRA.

In What Situations Can I Use FMLA?

FMLA grants job-protected workplace leave to care for a new child, perform caretaking duties for a seriously ill family member, or allow the employee time to recover from their own serious health issues. The FMLA has strict guidelines regarding which circumstances qualify as a serious health condition. These circumstances include any illness, injury, or physical or mental impairment which requires inpatient care, such as a stay in a hospital or treatment facility. A situation which warrants ongoing care by a medical professional may also count as a qualifying circumstance. Examples of circumstances an employee may use FMLA for include:

  • If you or a loved one is incapacitated for three or more consecutive days with two or more in-person visits to medical professionals in a 30-day period OR one in-person visit related to an ongoing treatment regimen.
  • If you or a loved one has a chronic condition which requires ongoing medical care, you can qualify for FMLA to care for these episodic periods of incapacitation. This scenario would include but is not limited to conditions like epilepsy or diabetes.
  • The FMLA provides job-protected leave for incapacity related to pregnancy or prenatal care regardless of the period for which the employee is incapacitated.
  • Incurable or long-term conditions like Alzheimer’s, cancer, or stroke qualify for FMLA.
  • If a healthcare provider refers you or a loved one for substance abuse treatment, this is a qualifying FMLA event.

Who Is An Eligible Employee Under The FMLA?

If you or a loved one is facing one of the above-mentioned circumstances, there are other criteria which must be met to guarantee FMLA protections. In order to be eligible for FMLA, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months preceding the start of leave, and be employed at a worksite where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles. Employees may take FMLA for themselves or an immediate family member. Immediate family members include parents, spouses, and children.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires covered employers to provide their employees paid sick leave or extended FMLA protections for specific reasons related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

What Is A Covered Employer?

Private and certain public employers with fewer than 500 employees are subject to FFCRA stipulations. Small businesses, which are defined as those with 50 or fewer employees, may qualify for an exemption from the leave requirement related to school closings or childcare unavailability, but only if such a requirement creates an ongoing concern that such an accommodation would jeopardize the viability of the business.

FFCRA Qualifying Reasons

Under this Act, employees qualify for paid sick leave if they are unable to perform in-person or remote work duties due to any of the following circumstances:

  • Federal, state, or local quarantine requirements prohibit them from doing so.
  • A healthcare provider advises a self-imposed quarantine related to Covid-19 concerns.
  • An employee is experiencing symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis related to Covid-19.
  • An employee is caring for an individual who is subject to quarantining due to Covid-19.
  • An employee who is caring for a child whose school or care facility is closed due to Covid-19 related reasons.
  • An employee is experiencing a similar condition, such as those specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Duration of FFCRA Leave

For most of the above-mentioned circumstances, full-time employees are eligible for up to 80 hours of leave. A part-time employee is eligible for the number of hours of leave that the employee works on average over a two-week period.

If the employee’s leave is related to caring for a child whose school or care facility is closed for reasons related to Covid-19, a full-time employee is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave at 40 hours a week. In this same scenario, a part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

Compensation During FFCRA Leave

If an employee is subject to federal, state, or local quarantine laws, has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-quarantine due to Covid-19 concerns, or is seeking a medical diagnosis for symptoms related to the coronavirus, the employee should be paid at their regular rate or an applicable minimum wage. The employee’s pay will be determined by which rate is higher up to $511 per day and $5,110 over the two-week period.

If the employee is caring for a loved one who has been ordered to quarantine, or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition, such as those described by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the employee is entitled to two-thirds their regular rate or two-thirds the applicable minimum wage, based on whichever rate is higher, up to $200 per day and $2,000 over the two-week period.

If an employee takes a period of leave to care for a child whose school or care facility is closed for reasons related to Covid-19, the employee is entitled to two-thirds their regular rate or two-thirds the applicable minimum wage, based on whichever is higher, up to $200 per day and $12,000 over a 12-week period. The employee is granted two weeks of paid sick leave followed by up to 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave.

Covered Employer Requirements

The FFCRA protects employee’s right to care for themselves or their loved ones for reasons related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, the FFCRA holds employers accountable by mandating all covered employers post a notice of FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous place on the employer’s premises.

Employers who are in violation of the first two weeks paid sick time or unlawful termination provisions of the FFCRA are subject to the penalties and enforcement described in Sections 16 and 17 of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 29 U.S.C. 216; 217.

If an employer is in violation of the provisions which provide for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid leave to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed, they will be subject to the enforcement provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Recent Updates To The FFCRA

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) into law, which, among other initiatives, extends and expands certain provisions of the FFCRA. These provisions went into effect on April 21, 2021, and will be active through September 30, 2021, with the possibility of a further extension.

Under the new provisions, covered employers will not be eligible for FFCRA tax credits if they discriminate in favor of high-earning employees, full-time employees, or employee tenure when granting provisions for FFCRA benefits.

Moreover, the ARPA expanded the reasons for qualified paid leave. These new reasons now include the waiting period for which an employee is seeking a diagnosis and is awaiting their Covid-19 test results. The period for which an employee is seeking a Covid-19 vaccination is now covered too. Lastly, if an employee is recovering from any injury, disability, illness or condition related to COVID-19 immunization, this scenario is now a qualified reason to receive FFCRA protections and provisions.

California State Leave Laws

In addition to the federal job-protected leave laws, there are several laws in the state of California which strive to protect an employee’s rights. While the FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, there are California laws which expand upon these federal protections. These statewide laws include but are not limited to:

The California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides similar protections as the FMLA. However, under the CFRA, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave during a 12-month period. Under the CFRA, these eligible employees may keep their employer-paid healthcare benefits. This workplace leave may be taken for the following reasons:

  • The birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a new child.
  • To perform caretaking duties for an immediate family member who is battling a serious health condition. Like the FMLA, the CFRA qualifies immediate family as spouses, children, or parents.
  • If an employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition, the employee would be protected under the CFRA.

According to the CFRA, a serious health condition is defined as one that entails physical or mental injury, illness, or impairment which results in a period of incapacity or treatment related to inpatient care or requires an absence from school, work, or daily activities for more than three consecutive calendar days. The CFRA also considers on-going treatment for a chronic or incurable, long-term health condition as a qualifying event.

It is important to note that restorative dental or plastic surgery are covered, but only if such a procedure is warranted as the result of an accident or injury. Voluntary cosmetic procedures are not considered serious health conditions unless inpatient hospital care is required to treat unexpected complications from the initial procedure.

Differences Between FMLA & CFRA

There are several differences between the federal provisions of the FMLA and the statewide protections of the CFRA. These differences include the following situations:

  • Pregnancy- FMLA considers pregnancy a serious health condition, but the CFRA does not consider pregnancy itself to be a serious health condition. Instead, pregnant California employees are entitled to Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL). The leave period for PDL is up to 16 weeks and employers with five or more employees are subject to the rules and regulations of this Act.
  • Domestic Partners-these individuals are, unfortunately, not covered under the FMLA. However, under the CFRA, registered domestic partners have protections equivalent to those which spouses receive.
  • Qualifying Exigency- the FMLA grants up to 12 weeks of leave and health benefits related to an employee or their family member’s active military duty status. This scenario, however, is not covered under the CFRA.
  • Care for an Ill or Injured Service Member- under the FMLA, an employee who is the spouse, child, parent, or next-of-kin of a covered service member may take a total of 26 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. Health benefits are included for this leave period. Under the CFRA, if the family member is a spouse, child, or parent, the employee is granted protections.

California Pregnancy Disability Leave

Under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) laws, employers with five or more employees must grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid disability leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or an illness or disability related to either of these conditions. PDL requires employers to grant expecting employees reasonable accommodations. However, employers can deny a reasonable accommodation request if they can prove such a request would create an undue burden.

California’s Paid Family Leave Act

The Paid Family Leave (PFL) Act grants temporary disability insurance to employees who take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner. PFL may also apply to those employees taking time off from work to bond with a new child. PFL is administered by the State Disability Insurance program and provides up to eight weeks of payments to eligible workers.

Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act

This state-level paid sick leave law went into effect on January 1, 2015. Under the law, employers are required to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. However, an employer may be able to use a different approved method. An employer may cap the approval period at 48 hours and cap the use of paid sick leave at three days or 24 hours, depending on which amount is greater within the 12-month period.

California Labor code 230.1: Victims of Domestic Violence

Survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault are entitled to job-protected leave should they need to provide witness testimony or ensure the health and safety of their children or themselves. These employees may take time off from work to obtain assistance from a service provider or go to a shelter to escape the threat of violence.

California Labor Code 233: Kin Care

This amended code now states that an employee has the right to designate sick leave for kin care, for the employee’s own health, or to obtain relief if the employee is a victim of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.

California Labor Code 1025-1028: Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation

This code grants California employees time off from work if they wish to voluntarily participate in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. Employers with 25 or more employees must adhere to this law. While eligible employees are not entitled to receive payment during this period, they are granted reasonable accommodations such as time off to seek treatment, permitted use of sick days to seek care, reassignment to a vacant position, adjusted work schedule, or other feasible changes which could help the employee with rehabilitation.

Michelle Maykin Memorial Donation Protection Act

If a California employee has worked at least 90 days, they may receive additional leave for organ donation purposes. Employers with 15 or more employees are subject to the Act, which requires them to provide 30 days of paid leave to employees participating in organ donation procedures. The Act grants five days of paid leave for bone marrow donation within a one-year period. Moreover, qualified employee organ donation participants are entitled to an additional unpaid leave of 30 business days.

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

The FEHA expressly prohibits wrongful termination, including instances in which an employer retaliates against an employee who opposes workplace harassment, discrimination, or the employer’s failure to provide the required pregnancy and family leave protections and provisions. Employees who file complaints about harassment or discrimination or those who testify or assist in a proceeding under the FEHA are protected too. The FEHA protects employees who qualify under these categories:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender/Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression
  • Religion
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Medical Condition
  • Protected Veteran/Service Member Status
  • Nationality/Country of Origin
  • Disability
  • Request of Leave for Family Care
  • Leave for the Employee’s Health Condition
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave
  • Age

Legal Recourse for Wrongful Termination

If you are an eligible employee who is denied a request for leave, demoted upon your return from leave, or if your employer wrongfully garnered your wages, protections, or other provisions, you may be entitled to damages. If you speak out against leave law violations or discrimination and your employer retaliates, you may be entitled to lost wages, backpay including interest, lost future earnings, lost benefits, and any related legal costs and fees.

Do Not Settle For Less Than You Deserve

As you can see, there are several federal and state protections for eligible employees. If you suspect you are the victim of wrongful termination or your employer is taking unfair retaliatory measures against you, know that you do not have to fight this alone. The experienced labor and workplace leave law attorneys at Manukyan Law Firm have the experience and know-how to help you win the settlement you deserve.

Now, more than ever, employers must be held accountable for labor law violations. Chances are, you are not the only employee at your palace of work who has faced discrimination or retaliation. Coming forward with your case may reveal a class action lawsuit against a negligent or reckless employer. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, especially when you and your family are enduring challenging circumstances. The compassionate, dedicated team at Manukyan Law Firm is here to help you, your family, and your fellow employees fight for the compensation and justice you all deserve.

When you face workplace discrimination and labor leave law violations, you need a legal team you can trust. You need the skilled attorneys at the Manukyan Law Firm. One call can make all the difference.

Contact us today at 818-559-4444.

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