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Do you have the right to take FMLA or CFRA leave?

While you want to be a diligent employee, your life simply doesn’t revolve around your job. You also have your health and a family to take care of and support. Some companies try to facilitate a positive work-life balance for their staff members by offering generous paid leave policies.


Even if your employer does not offer much leave, federal and California state employment laws give workers the opportunity to take an extended leave of absence without pay for personal medical reasons or in certain family situations.


The laws in question are the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). When might you be able to take unpaid leave as an employee in California?


Your rights under the FMLA

Federal employment laws entitle workers who have worked for a company long enough to request FMLA leave if the company is big enough. If you and the company qualify, you can potentially ask for twelve weeks of leave to handle your medical needs.


You can also ask for leave to take care of a family member with medical issues or when you add a child to the family through foster placement, adoption or birth. If you take leave to care for a family member who is also an active-duty service member, you may be able to take up to 26 weeks of leave.


Your employer should allow you to take that time off and then return to the same job without any retaliation for taking leave.


Your rights under the CFRA

Although benefits historically mirrored the FMLA, California state lawmakers have enacted expansions to the CFRA that may benefit you. The CFRA now includes any business with five or more employers. The previous language of the CFRA and the current rules under the FMLA only applies to businesses with 50 or more workers.


Additionally, the new expansion of the CFRA includes grandchildren, grandparents, adult children, domestic partners and siblings in the group of family members that can qualify a worker for unpaid time off. Unlike the FLMA, the CFRA does not cover pregnant women. New mothers can ask for FMLA leave or request up to four months of unpaid leave under California state statutes.


Asking for leave when you need it or fighting back against a company that punishes you for your basic right to medical leave or family leave will not only benefit you but anyone at the company who will need to leave in the future.