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What Is the California Family Rights Act?

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Passed into law in 1993, the CFRA guarantees California (CA) residents time away from work to provide care for a qualifying individual without fear of losing their job. To help you understand the CFRA and how it applies to you, consider the following information and how it may help your claim.

What Is the CFRA?

Similar to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the CFRA grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks away from work to provide care for a new child, either newborn, adopted, or fostered. The employee must use the leave during the first 12 months of the child joining the family. The CFRA allows employees to use the leave to care for themselves or family members when either has a serious medical condition.

An employee may not use CFRA leave instead of pregnancy leave (PDL), but the individual may ask to extend the PDL by adding CFRA leave on to the end of PDL. No serious medical condition needs to exist or result from the birth for a person to use CFRA leave to care for the newborn.

However, a woman who begins to experience a difficult pregnancy and needs to take leave prior to the birth to protect her health or that of her child is not eligible for using the CFRA leave unless she develops a serious medical condition that would have required time away from work. In this instance, she would apply for leave under the FMLA.

The employee does not receive pay from the employer during the 12-week leave unless the latter requires the former to use any earned vacation or leave, outside of sick leave. In that instance, the employer must pay wages to the employee. This remains true if an employee chooses to use earned vacation or other leave. All benefits earned as a condition of employment must remain in effect, including health or dental care, retirement plans, pension, or other insurance.

Eligible Employees

A CA employee working full or part time for a company operating in CA and that employs 50 or more workers qualifies for the CFRA. Certain public servants also retain some eligibility. Also, the employee must have 12 months or over 1,250 hours of work at the current employer and live within 75 miles of the place of employment. Serious health conditions that qualify for the CFRA leave include anything requiring in-patient care at a medical facility and ongoing medical care provided by a qualified medical profession.

Employers must provide the employee with the same job upon returning to work or find the individual a comparable position. The employee can request this in writing. Some circumstances do arise that allow the employer to not bring an individual back to work. If the company goes through a restructure, as an example, and the employee’s position ceases to exist, the employer does not have to bring the individual back to work. Any denial of reinstatement must be in writing, and the employer must make every effort possible to restore an employee to their previous job.