As an employee in California, you may be entitled to an extended period of time off of work if you are sick or injured or if you need to take care of a loved one who is sick or injured.
Such a prolonged absence from work is commonly referred to as a “leave of absence.” A leave of absence may be afforded to you if you need time to recuperate, take care of a loved one, bond with a new baby, or deal with other extraordinary circumstances that warrant time off work.
Several California laws protect your right to take certain types of paid and unpaid leave. If you believe your employer has violated your rights, a California leave of absence lawyer from Domb & Rauchwerger can help you take action against them.
Types of Paid and Unpaid Leave Protected by California Law
Workers in California may be entitled to take several different forms of leave. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine if a particular type of leave is protected or if you’re qualified to take a leave of absence. Fortunately, our California leave of absence attorneys are here to help you understand your rights under state law.
Let’s discuss the different types of leave that state law requires your employer to offer and the requirements you must meet to take a leave of absence. Then, we’ll discuss what you can do if an employer violates your right to take protected leave.
For a free legal consultation with a Employment lawyer serving California, call 213-537-9225
California Family Rights Act Leave
Under the California Family Rights Act (CRFA), you’re entitled to up to 12 work weeks of leave, but only if the following elements are true:
- Your employer has at least five employees
- You’ve been employed for at least 12 months before the start date of your leave
- You’ve worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12-month period prior to your leave (unless you were previously taking pregnancy disability leave.)
If you meet the qualifications listed above, you have the right to take leave for any of the following reasons:
- A “serious health condition” (explained below)
- To provide care for a child, grandchild, parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, domestic partner, or designated person (defined as “any person related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”) who suffers from a “serious health condition”
- The birth of your child or having a child placed with you for adoption or foster care
- For a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of your spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the U.S. military
California Leave of Absence Lawyer Near Me 213-537-9225
What Qualifies As a Serious Health Condition?
The phrase “serious health condition” is generally defined as an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment. However, under the CFRA, disabilities caused by pregnancy or childbirth are not considered serious health conditions. Instead, those conditions are protected under separate leave of absence laws.
Provided you take CFRA leave for a qualifying reason, you’re entitled to be reinstated to the same or equivalent job when your leave ends. While CFRA leave is unpaid, you can still receive compensation while out on CFRA leave if you have sick time, PTO, or vacation time.
Click to contact our Employment Lawyer today
You Must Notify Your Employer that You Need to Take a Leave of Absence
If you need to take leave for a reason covered by the CFRA, you must notify your employer. That said, you don’t need to reference the CFRA specifically, as it’s your employer’s responsibility to know whether the reason you need to take leave is covered by the CFRA.
You should also provide reasonable advance notice to your employer if you know ahead of time that you’ll need to take leave. You should also provide an estimate of the timing and duration of the leave as well as supporting medical documentation.
You’re not required to provide, nor should your employer ask for, the specific medical condition that’s causing you to take leave.
If you believe your employer is violating your rights under the CFRA, a leave of absence lawyer from our team in California can help you pursue remedies. We can also help you take action if your employer is discriminating against, harassing, or retaliating against you for requesting to take CFRA-protected leave.
Complete a Free Case Evaluation form
Pregnancy Disability Leave
According to the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), you’re entitled to four months of unpaid leave if you work for an employer with at least five employees and need to take time off for one of the following reasons:
- The birth of a child
- A pregnancy-related disability
More on PDLL
While PDLL leave is unpaid, you may receive payment for a portion of the time you take off through sick pay, vacation pay, or California State Disability Insurance. In addition, while on PDLL leave, your employer has to maintain and pay for your health coverage just as it would have if you had not taken PDLL leave and continued employment.
If you’re eligible to take pregnancy leave, you can take 12 weeks of CFRA leave after taking four months of PDLL, allowing you to take seven months of protected time for the birth of a child. Additional leave beyond seven months may be possible as an additional reasonable accommodation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
You Have the Right to Return to Your Job After PDLL Leave
According to the law, you must be reinstated to the same position after the conclusion of your PDLL leave unless the position is no longer available for reasons unrelated to your leave.
An employer may also deny you your old position if holding the position open would have substantially undermined the safety or operation of the employer’s business. That said, if the employer attempts to rely on this justification, the employee must still be reinstated to a comparable position.
If your employer violates the rights that the PDLL affords you or unjustly denies you your old position after pregnancy leave, contact our leave of absence lawyers in California.
Reasonable Accommodation Leave
Under the FEHA, your employer must provide reasonable accommodations to you if you have a disability and need accommodations, such as modifications to your work environment, to perform essential functions of your job.
If you need to take time off to recover from a disability or injury, you could receive such accommodation in the form of a finite leave of absence. When you return to work, you’re still entitled to accommodations to help you perform essential duties.
Examples of reasonable accommodations can include a reduced work schedule, restrictions on carrying heavy objects, or being provided with software or equipment to allow you to perform the essential functions of your job.
How Long Your Finite Leave of Absence Can Be
The amount of leave that is considered a reasonable and finite amount of time is determined on a case-by-case basis. Typically, leaves that last for only a few weeks or a couple of months will be considered reasonable.
On the other hand, leaves that last longer than a year aren’t likely to be considered reasonable. That said, each situation must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, so there’s a chance your leave could exceed a year.
Taking Reasonable Accommodation Leave When You’ve Exhausted Other Types of Leave
If you need to take time off from work to recover from a disability or injury, but you’ve exhausted your CFRA leave (or your CFRA leave and PDLL leave combined), you may still be entitled to reasonable accommodation in the form of a leave of absence.
As a result, you generally cannot be fired because you are out of CFRA leave and only need a few more weeks to finish recovering from an injury or medical condition in order to return to work with or without reasonable accommodations.
If you’ve been fired or had your rights violated for requesting or taking protected disability leave, we encourage you to consult with an experienced leave of absence attorney from California and explore your legal options.
Paid Sick Leave
Generally, once you’ve worked for your California employer for at least 30 days within a one-year period, you are eligible for at least 3 paid sick days, or 24 hours, depending on how many hours per day you typically work. Certain counties or cities require employers to provide their employees with more paid sick days.
Paid sick days or hours can be used starting on your 90th day of employment for either the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or preventative care for:
- Your biological, adopted, or foster child
- Your biological, adopted, or foster parent
- Your spouse or domestic partner
- Your grandparents, grandchild, or sibling
- A designated person
Your Employer Can Distribute Sick Leave Through Front-Loading or Accrual
Your employer can front-load your sick time, giving you all three days at the beginning of each year, or they can have you accrue sick time at a rate not less than one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
If your employer uses the accrual method, they may put a cap on the amount of paid sick leave you can earn at a total of six days or 48 hours.
They can also limit your use of paid sick leave in a given year to 24 hours or 3 days, even if you’ve accrued more than that amount. Again, certain counties or cities may provide additional paid sick leave days. Lastly, your employer is not required to pay you for unused sick time upon the end of your employment.
If your employer has denied you the paid sick leave you’re entitled to or retaliated against you for taking protected sick leave, get in touch with a California leave of absence attorney. They can provide the legal advice and representation you need to hold your employer responsible for violating your rights.
Other Types of Leave
Depending on the size of your employer, California law may offer numerous other types of protection in particular situations, including, but not limited to:
- Bereavement leave
- Jury duty leave
- Military leave
- Leave for victim of crime or abuse
- Leave to testify as a witness
- Leave for school activities
- Leave to attend drug and alcohol rehabilitation
- Leave for volunteering as a firefighter, police officer, or emergency personnel
- Leave to vote
- Literacy education leave
- Organ and bone marrow donation leave
- Civil air patrol leave
While California law doesn’t require your employer to provide vacation time, they cannot maintain a policy that forces you to give up your vacation time if you don’t use it in a certain period of time. These “use it or lose it” vacation policies are prohibited in California.
That said, your employer is permitted to place a cap on the amount of vacation time you can accrue. In addition, any vacation time you’ve accrued must be paid out upon your termination or resignation.
An experienced leave of absence lawyer can take action against your employer if they’ve forced you to forfeit vacation time or failed to pay out unused time that you accrued.
California Paid Family Leave Benefits
Paid Family Leave benefits (PFL) allow you up to eight weeks of compensation to let you bond with a young child within one year of birth or placement in your home or foster care. You can also receive PFL compensation if you have to take time off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, parent, spouse, domestic partner, child, grandchild, or sibling.
Finally, PFL can be used to provide compensation to an employee in connection with the covered active duty or call to duty of an employee’s parents, spouse, domestic partner, or child. PFL is not a type of leave; it is only a method for employees to receive compensation that may be available to them when taking other types of leave.
PFL benefits are typically 60% or 70% of an employee’s wages, depending on how much the employee earned. PFL is different from disability insurance compensation, and the two cannot be received at the same time.
If you believe that you have not been provided with the leave you are entitled to, or if you believe that your employer is treating you differently as a result of your leave request, contact our office immediately to schedule a free consultation.
Illegal Actions that a California Leave of Absence Attorney Can Hold Your Employer Responsible for
There are several ways that an employer may violate the rights afforded to you under the CFRA, FEHA, and other state laws regarding leaves of absence. Fortunately, our firm can help you fight back against your employer if they commit one or more of the following violations:
- Denying a request for leave that you’re eligible to take
- Unlawfully changing your role upon your return to work
- Failing to provide the same or similar position when your leave ends
- Not paying for health insurance benefits while you’re on leave
- Retaliating or discriminating against you for taking protected leave
- Harassing you for taking leave
- Firing, demoting, or lowering your pay for taking leave
Situations in Which You Can Be Fired While on Leave
Unfortunately, there are certain circumstances that allow your employer to discharge you while on leave. They may terminate your employment if you’re subject to a company-wide layoff or if you took leave that isn’t protected by California law.
In addition, if you’re one of your company’s 10% highest-paid employees, your employer can deny you reinstatement of your job when your leave ends, but only if your return would cause the company significant financial hardship.
Compensation a Leave of Absence Attorney Could Pursue for You
If your employer has violated your right to take a protected leave of absence, an attorney can pursue monetary and non-monetary remedies on your behalf. If your case is successful, you could receive the following:
- Back pay
- Front pay
- Damages for pain and suffering, embarrassment, and humiliation
- Attorneys’ fees
- Damages for any injuries or losses you’ve suffered
- Punitive damages
Your employer may also be required to provide training for supervisors and managers about the laws that protect California employees’ right to pregnancy, medical, disability, and other forms of leave.
We Have What It Takes to Fight Back Against Your Employer
Before founding Domb & Rauchwerger, attorneys Zack Domb and Devin Rauchwerger were partners at one of the largest employment defense firms in the nation. In their previous positions, they represented Fortune 500 employers and learned all the tactics that corporate attorneys use to protect companies against leave of absence violation claims.
Domb & Rauchwerger are different from other leave of absence attorneys because they have inside information regarding how employment defense attorneys and in-house counsel operate. As a result, they can use their unique experience and knowledge to file a winning claim against your employer.
Zack Domb and Devin Rauchwerger collaborate on all the cases they handle, which means you’ll get the representation of not one, but two skilled leave of absence attorneys when you work with our law firm.
Contact Our Firm for a Free Consultation Today
If your employer has violated the rights offered to you by state law, contact a California leave of absence lawyer from Domb & Rauchwerger today. They’ll meet with you via a free consultation at a time that works for you.
During your consultation, a seasoned lawyer will ask you about the actions your employer took that violated California law and discuss your legal rights. If they believe you have grounds for a claim, they’ll work tirelessly to get the results you need.