Like employers in every state, California employers must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave, with the right to reinstatement, for certain reasons.
In addition, California has several laws that give employees the right to take leave for family and health reasons. Employees who are covered by more than one of these laws are entitled to the rights set out in the most protective law.
Federal FMLA Rights
California employees who are eligible may take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious health conditions, bonding with a new child, or preparation for a family member's military service; more leave is available for employees who need to care for a family member who was seriously injured on active military duty. For detailed information on FMLA leave, see Taking Family and Medical Leave.
Who Is Covered?
California employers must comply with the FMLA if they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if:
- they have worked for the company for at least a year
- they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
- they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Reasons for Leave
FMLA leave is available if an employee needs time off to:
- bond with a new child
- recuperate from a serious health condition
- care for a family member with a serious health condition
- handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or
- care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military. (You can find more information on these last two types of leave in Military Family Leave for Employees.)
How Much Leave Is Available?
Employees in California may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, or qualifying exigencies. This leave renews every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements explained above.
Employees who need military caregiver leave may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period. However, this leave is a per-injury, per-service member entitlement. Unless the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty, an employee may not take an additional leave for this purpose.
Leave and Reinstatement Rights
Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. Although FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.
When an employee’s FMLA leave ends, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with a few exceptions.
California Family and Medical Leave Laws
California has almost half a dozen family and medical leave laws of its own.
California Family Rights Act
Employers with at least 50 employees must allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period:
- for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child
- for the employee's own serious health condition, or
- to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Unlike the federal FMLA, California laws includes same-sex spouses, domestic partners, and children of domestic partners as family members.
Military Family Leave
Employers with at least 25 employees must allow eligible employees to take up to ten days of unpaid leave while a spouse is on leave from deployment during a period of military conflict.
Pregnancy Disability Leave
Employers with at least five employees must give employees a reasonable period of leave for disability relating to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. This period is not to exceed four months. Pregnancy disability leave doesn't count against an employee's leave entitlement under the California Family Rights Act.
Small Necessities Law
Employers with at least 25 employees must give employees up to 40 hours of unpaid leave in any 12-month period, not to exceed eight hours in a single month, to participate in activities at a child's school or day care.
Domestic Violence Leave
All employers must allow employees to take unpaid leave to obtain a restraining order or seek other judicial relief from domestic violence for the employee or the employee's child. In addition, employers with at least 25 employees must allow employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to take time off to:
- seek medical treatment
- obtain services from a rape crisis center or domestic violence shelter or program
- get counseling, or
- engage in safety planning and/or relocate.
Temporary Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave
California has a state temporary disability insurance program, funded by withholding from employee paychecks. Eligible employees who are unable to work due to a temporary disability (including pregnancy) can receive up to 55% of their usual wages.
This program also funds paid family leave. Eligible employees may collect the same benefits available for a temporary disability for up to six weeks in order to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse, domestic partner, or child, or to bond with a new child. Beginning in July 2014, the paid leave program extends to care for additional family members, including siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
For More Information
If you need to know more about California's leave laws, you can contact the state Fair Employment and Housing Commission. The Temporary Disability and Paid Family Leave programs are administered by the Employment Development Department.