Family and Medical Leaves

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) require an employer that regularly employs more than 50 people within a 75 mile radius to provide employees who have more than one year of service with up to 12 weeks of leave if they, or their children, spouse or parents, have a "serious medical condition."

An employee need not use the words or acronyms "FMLA" or "CFRA" to secure this leave. The employee must, however, notify the employer that he/she (or his/her child/spouse/parent) has a "serious health condition", although the employee need not use those exact words. If the employer wants more information, it must ask for it. The employer may request a doctor's certificate, indicating the severity and probable duration of the condition, but it must do so in writing. If the employer wants a second opinion, it may demand one provided that it pays for it. The employer may also require the employee to see a physician of its choosing.

A "serious medical condition" under CFRA means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves (1) inpatient care in a hospital, or (2) continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider. Any illness or injury that incapacitates an employee for more than 3 consecutive days qualifies as continuing treatment. The leave may be intermittent or sporadic, or taken for the entire 12 week period, as long as the above criteria is satisfied.

CFRA leave may also be taken for bonding with a child, or for adopting a child. "Baby bonding leave" may be taken at anytime within 12 months of the baby's birth, and may be taken immediately following a pregnancy disability leave. Thus, if an employee has a difficult pregnancy, she may be entitled to up to four months of Pregnancy Disability Leave ("PDL") under the California Fair Employment Act, and then an additional 12 weeks of "baby bonding" leave once she recovers from her pregnancy-related disability under CFRA, for a total of 7 months of job-protected leave.

If an employee takes covered CFRA leave, the employer must return the employee to her/his prior position without any loss of seniority except in limited circumstances.