Family and Medical Leave

There are three major statutes that protect employees through the provision of leaves of absences from work.  Federal law provides for pregnancy-related leave under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) while California provides for leave under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) and the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).

It’s critically important to understand how these three laws overlap and interact to provide a robust set of protections and options for California employees.  Below is but a brief introduction to these laws and the protections they afford.


The Federal Family Medical Leave Act

Federal law prohibits employers from interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of any right under the Family and Medical Leave Act, including the right to take pregnancy-related leave.  29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1).

The FMLA provides that eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of leave in any 12-month period due to a serious health condition, and that the employee is entitled to be restored to the same or an equivalent position following her leave.  29 U.S.C. §§ 2612(a)(1)(D), 2614(a)(1).

Federal law also prohibits employers from disciplining or discharging an employee because she has exercised her right to take FMLA leave, or from using such leave as a negative factor in an employment decision.  29 C.F.R. § 824.220(c).

Federal law also requires that employers provide notice to employees of their eligibility to take FMLA leave within five days of the time the employer becomes aware that the employee may need leave for FMLA-qualifying reason.  Failure to follow the notice requirements may constitute interference with, restraint, or denial of the exercise of an employee’s FMLA rights. 29 C.F.R. § 825.300.

Learn more about the FMLA here.


The Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (“PDLL”) [Cal.Gov’t Code §12945(a)] makes it unlawful for an employer “to refuse to allow a female employee disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to take a leave for a reasonable period of time not to exceed four months and thereafter return to work, as set forth in the commission’s regulations.”

Learn more about the PDLL here.


The California Family Rights Act

Under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) an employee may take an unpaid leave of up to 12, non-consecutive workweeks following the birth of a child for the purposes of family bonding or to tend to serious health conditions of the employee or the employee’s spouse, parent, or child.

A serious health condition means an illness, injury, impairment or other physical or mental condition that involves in-patient care in a medical facility or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

An employee is eligible for CFRA leave so long as their employer is doing business in California and employs more than fifty employees and the employee has more than 12 months of service with the employer and has worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the date the leave begins.

Learn more about the CFRA here.