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Understanding the State and Federal Family Leave Acts

Irvine trial lawyerOver the last several decades, several state and federal laws have been enacted that provide employees with the right to take leave time for medical and/or family issues. For an employer, navigating the various laws to ensure they don’t run afoul of any of them can be difficult. In fact, claims relating to state and federal leave laws are among the most litigated of all employment law cases. The first step in avoiding liability for violating an employee’s rights under these laws is to gain a better understanding of those rights. Toward that end, an Irvine trial lawyer at Brown & Charbonneau discusses several important state and federal leave acts.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a federal law that was passed in 1993. For employees who qualify, the FMLA guarantees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave per year.  It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave. The FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. An employee may qualify to take leave under the FMLA for the following reasons:

  • The birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member (i.e., spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
  • A “qualifying exigency” that arises out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child or parent is on active duty or has been called to active duty for the National Guard or Reserve in support of a contingency operation.

To qualify for leave under the FMLA, an employee must meet the following conditions:

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months prior to taking leave
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months
  • Work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The California Family Rights Act, or CFRA, closely mirrors its federal counterpart, the FMLA. Like the FMLA, the CFMA guarantees an eligible employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave for a covered reason. Like the FMLA, the CFRA applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Two of the biggest differences between the FMLA and the CFRA are:

  • Under the FMLA pregnancy is considered a “serious health condition” whereas it is not covered under the CFRA. Note, however, that yet another law –Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) – provides a pregnant employee with up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave for a pregnancy disability. This law applies to employers with five or more employees.
  • The CFRA does not provide coverage for a qualifying exigency related to military service.

California New Parent Leave Act (NPLA)

The California New Parent Leave Act, or NPLA, took effect on January 1, 2018 and was intended to fill in gaps in existing leave laws. The NPLA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to bond with a new child. The NPLA applies to companies with 20 to 49 employees in a 75-mile radius. An employee must have worked for an eligible employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months. If eligible, an employee may utilize NPLA leave during the first 12 months after the birth, adoption, or foster placement of child.

The state and federal leave laws are complex in nature. While the guidelines above offer a basic understanding of the laws, it is crucial to analyze the facts and circumstances of each leave request to determine if the employee is entitled to leave under one or more of the laws. If you are unclear as to your obligations under the FMLA, PDL, CFRA, or NPLA it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced attorney to ensure that you do not open yourself up to liability.

Contact an Irvine Employment Lawyer

Brown & Charbonneau, LLP represents large and small companies in cases involving all forms of employment disputes. If you are involved in an employment dispute, or would like to learn about your rights and how to protect your business, we can provide you with the information you need. Contact us or call today at 714-505-3000 to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you.

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