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Leave — Family and Medical Leave Act & California Family Rights Act

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The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) apply to employers with 50 or more employees, and provide for overlapping as well as separate family and medical leaves. California also has the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), which applies to employers with 20 or more employees. It's important to understand the requirements of each act and its interaction with other types of leaves of absence to determine which leave law applies during different situations related to COVID-19.

FMLA and CFRA both provide a maximum of 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. FMLA also provides 26 weeks of leave for an employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin for a covered military service member who requires care.

Employees are eligible if they work at a facility with 50 or more employees and if they have worked for the employer for 12 months, which needn't be consecutive. They must have worked 1,250 hours within the 12 months immediately prior to their need for leave.

Employees may use FMLA and/or CFRA when:

  • They have a serious health condition (FMLA/CFRA).
  • They have a qualifying exigency relating to a close family member’s military service (FMLA only).
  • They need to care for an ill or injured service member (up to 26 weeks per 12-month period (FMLA only).
  • They have a pregnancy-related disability (FMLA only).
  • They are bonding with a newborn, adopted child or a child placed in their foster care (FMLA/CFRA).
  • They are caring for a family member (parent, child, spouse) with a serious health condition (FMLA/CFRA).
  • They are caring for a registered domestic partner with a serious health condition (CFRA only).

As explained in the section about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), family emergency is another qualifying reason for an employee to take FMLA leave, and it expands the definition of covered employer to include virtually all California employees. In addition, employees are required to work for the employer for only 30 days to be eligible for the new emergency leave.

As stated in the FFCRA section, emergency family leave applies only to the care of an employee’s children whose school or place of care is closed (or whose child care provider is unavailable) because of COVID-19.

The New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) applies to all California employers with 20 or more employees. It provides a maximum of 12 weeks of leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. In addition, the employer must guarantee that the employee is reinstated to the same or a comparable position when the leave ends.

These leave laws are important to understand and properly administer so that employees are afforded the greatest benefit under each law. Here's one scenario: An employer with 30 employees must provide 12 weeks of leave to an employee who just gave birth, per the NPLA. Following the bonding leave, the baby is placed in child care The employer might be required to provide the new mom an additional 10 weeks of emergency family leave if her child care provider is closed because of the coronavirus. And if the new parent or spouse becomes ill with COVID-19, the employer might have to provide as many as 80 hours of paid sick leave (per emergency sick leave provisions) while the employee or spouse self-quarantines at home.

An in-depth analysis of the FMLA, CFRA, NPLA and other required leave laws is beyond the scope of this guide. Employers should review the FAQs in the next section, and are encouraged to contact us if they have additional questions related to the implementation and application of leave laws.

See Also

< FAQs — Health and Safety Table of Contents FAQs — Family and Medical Leave Act & California Family Rights Act >

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