Family and Medical Leave in California

California employees are protected by a number of state leave laws, in addition to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

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 two laws that mirror the federal FMLA. The California Family Rights Act requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide eligible employees with 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 .

A new law, called the New Parent Leave Act, extends bonding leave rights to employees of smaller employers. As of January 1, 2018, employers with between 20 and 49 employees must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with a new child.

Both laws have the same eligibility requirements as the FMLA: The employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year prior to the leave, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees (or 20 under the New Parent Leave Act). Unlike the FMLA, the California laws also cover domestic partners and children of domestic partners.

California 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.

California 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 or New Parent Leave Act.

California 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.

California 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.

California Paid Temporary Disability Insurance

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. Beginning on January 1, 2018, this amount will increase to 60% or 70%, depending on the employee’s wages.

California Paid Family Leave

California also has paid family leave program. Eligible employees may collect the same benefits available for a temporary disability for up to six weeks in order to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill parent, spouse, domestic partner, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and parent-in-law. To learn more, see our California Paid Family Leave FAQ.

For More Information

If you need to know more about California's leave laws, you can contact the state Department of Fair Housing and Employment. The Temporary Disability and Paid Family Leave programs are administered by the Employment Development Department.

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