California Family Rights Act (CFRA) - San Diego

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which is often paired with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), can protect employees from losing their job if they need to take time off for their own or a family member’s health, or to bond with a new baby.  A family member typically means a spouse, son or daughter under age 18, and biological parents, excluding parents “in-law.”  The CFRA generally applies to businesses that employ 50 or more people within a 75 mile radius of the worksite.

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If your company needs assistance resolving discrimination claims, employee disputes, or allegations of wrongful termination related to the provisions of the CFRA, the experienced San Diego employment law lawyers of Bellatrix PC can assist. Whether your business is facing litigation and needs aggressive legal representation, or you simply have questions about keeping your policies and practices compliant with the law, our attorneys are here to help your company reach its goals.

To arrange for a private consultation, call our law offices at (800) 449-8992 today.

Which Employees Are Eligible To Take CFRA Leave?

As an employer, it’s important that you understand the basic eligibility criteria for CFRA leave so that you do not accidentally violate your employees’ legal rights.  You must allow an employee CFRA leave if he or she has been employed for at least 12 months prior to the date he or she intends to begin their leave, including at least 1,250 hours of work during that 12-month period.

However, none of the following count toward the minimum 1,250 hours:

  • Sick leave hours
  • Vacation or annual leave
  • Administrative time off
  • Personal leave and informal time off
  • Holiday breaks
  • Compensating time off

What Counts as a Serious Medical Condition Under the California Family Rights Act?

Provided they meet the criteria noted above, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in order to care for a “serious medical condition” which affects themselves, their parent, or their child.  This serious medical condition may be mental, physical, or both, and may involve an injury, an illness, or another type of medical impairment.

Some common examples of health issues which are often cited as serious medical conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Cancer
  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraines
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Severe Asthma
  • Severe Back Pain

Any condition may be deemed “serious” under the CFRA it involves either of the following:

  • Inpatient care, such as care received from hospitals, hospices, residential facilities.
  • Ongoing supervision or treatment supplied by a doctor or other healthcare provider.

Therefore, even a simple condition like the flu could potentially qualify if either of the above requirements are satisfied.

Employment Leave Rights for Parents with Newborn Babies

In addition to injuries and illnesses, there are special CFRA provisions for parents with newborn babies.  In addition to the conditions cited above, the CFRA permits employees who are mothers or fathers to take up to 12 weeks of leave in order to adopt or bond with a child, with a minimum leave period of two weeks.  If both of the parents are employees at the same company, the employer may divide the 12-week maximum leave period between them, whether evenly or unevenly.

These 12 total weeks can be taken immediately following a pregnancy disability leave, or at any time within 12 months of the baby’s birth.  If an employee has a difficult pregnancy, she may be entitled to up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave in addition to another 12 weeks of leave under the CFRA once she recovers from her pregnancy-related disability.  Employers must be particularly careful to avoid engaging in any conduct which could constitute grounds for an employee to file a pregnancy discrimination claim.

Notification, Pay, and Reinstatement Requirements

Employers are required to inform employees of their legal rights under the CFRA.  This information is typically found on posters in the break room, handed out in pamphlets during orientation, or stated in an employee handbook.

Conversely, employees who plan to take leave are also responsible for providing advance notice to their employers.  If leave is foreseeable, employees are required to give at least 30 days notice, and to state their reason for the leave.  Of course, medical emergencies are rarely anticipated.  If an employee’s need for leave is sudden or unforeseeable, then the employee must give notice “as soon as practicable.”  These requirements align with those supplied by the FMLA or Family Medical Leave Act, whose provisions are often applied in conjunction with those of the CFRA.

While the Act is designed primarily to protect employees’ rights, the CFRA also protects employers by requiring that the employee provide medical certification of their need for leave.  If the employer doubts the validity of a certification for a serious health condition, he or she may require a second medical opinion (paid for by the employer).  If the employee is caring for his or her spouse or child, written certification is required specifically from the family member’s health care provider.

During CFRA leave, an employer is not required to pay the employee.  However, the employer must continue to provide health benefits, as long as such benefits were being offered at the time the employee went on leave.  If an employee is cleared to return to work, has taken CFRA leave, and has not stayed on leave beyond the period of time allowable under these acts, then the employer must reinstate him or her to the same or an equivalent position.

Employers are not required to reinstate employees returning from leave if:

  • The employee’s position no longer exists.
  • The employee is salaried, and is in the 10% highest paid bracket.
  • Reinstatement would cause unreasonable financial issues for the company.

Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys

Commercial litigation stemming from CFRA claims has the potential to undermine any business by draining valuable time, resources, and money while generating negative publicity and weakening workforce morale.  The attorneys of Bellatrix PC can help your entity identify potential issues before they start by scrutinizing your current policies with a Business Risk Review, and recommending changes to better insulate your entity against employee claims.

However, if a claim has already been filed against your company, our attorneys are prepared to aggressively litigate the matter in court.  You will receive our personal attention and an honest assessment of your case.  Our business defense attorneys will outline your defense strategies and discuss the likelihood of success, should the case advance to trial.

To schedule a confidential consultation, call the law offices of Bellatrix PC at (800) 449-8992 today.


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