Medical Leaves, CFRA, FMLA

The law in the area of leaves of absence is considerably complex. There are different types of leaves which may be available to California employees, such as leaves under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Pregnancy Leave law, and other non-medical leaves of absence. Generally, most leaves of absence are not paid, unless an employer has voluntarily adopted a paid leave policy or the employee qualifies for state-paid family leave.

Whether a leave is permitted under CFRA or FMLA generally depends upon the employee's length or service, the number of hours worked by the employee, the size of the employer and the reason for the leave, among other things. (Refer to the Pregnancy Discrimination & Pregnancy Leave section for a discussion of the rights and obligations raised by an employee's pregnancy.)

Under some circumstances, certain leaves may be combined resulting in a longer leave of absence to the employee. For example, a CFRA-eligible employee may be able to supplement a Pregnancy Leave with a CFRA leave, resulting in a much longer permitted leave of absence.

CFRA, FMLA and Pregnancy Leave law merely provide the minimum standards applicable to employers as they relate to the length of a leave. An employer has the option to voluntarily extend the length of the leave available to the employee.

Not every scenario requires a permitted leave or affords the employee legal protection. Accordingly, whether a leave of absence is available to a particular employee requires a detailed evaluation of the employee's particular circumstances, including an analysis of the employee's medical condition and the review of the employer's policies, among other things.

Returning from a Leave
An employee who has not exceeded the time parameters of the permitted leave, whether under CFRA, FMLA, Pregnancy Leave law, or under a voluntarily leave of absence policy as adopted and defined by the employer, generally has the right to return to the same position or, at a minimum, a comparable position. An employer may request a doctor's note medically authorizing the employee's return to work.

No Retaliation
An employer must not retaliate against an employee who exercises his/her rights under a permitted leave. This type of retaliation is against the law and may result in substantial legal exposure to the employer which may include the availability of compensatory damages, emotional distress damages and punitive damages. In some cases, the employee may be reinstated.