Can I Take Leave From Work to Care for a Family Member?

Can I Take Leave From Work to Care for a Family Member?

If you’re like many Californians, you know that the California Family Rights Act enables some people to take time off to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. But how do you know if you qualify, and more importantly, what can you do if your employer denies you CFRA leave? This guide explains. 

Can I Take Leave From Work to Care for a Family Member?

Under the California Family Rights Act, or CFRA, you’re eligible to take leave from work if your employer has five or more employees and:

  • You have a family member who has a serious health condition
  • You have worked for your current employer for more than one year
  • You have performed at least 1,250 hours of work for your employer in the past year

Related: How to take unpaid leave in California 

What Family Members Count?

If you’re eligible for CFRA leave, several family members count. In fact, you can take job-protected leave to care for:

  • A child of any age (biological, adopted, foster or stepchild; a legal ward; a child of an employee; a child of an employee’s domestic partner; a person to whom you stand in loco parentis)
  • Your spouse
  • Your domestic partner
  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings

What Does “Serious Health Condition” Mean?

A serious health condition, according to the CFRA, includes an illness, injury, or physical or mental condition that involves continuing treatment by a healthcare provider or inpatient care. 

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a federal law that provides similar protections. However, in California, the law that applies to you is the one that provides the most protections; in this case, it’s the CFRA. But just for reference, the FMLA has similar qualifying conditions – you must have worked for your employer for at least a year and performed at least 1,250 hours of work. The big difference is that more than 50 employees must work within a 75-mile radius of your employer.

Related: FMLA denial information

How Much Time Can You Take Off to Care for a Family Member?

The CFRA allows you to take up to 12 weeks per year to care for your family member.

Do You Have to Take All 12 Weeks of Leave at One Time?

Under the CFRA, you do not have to take all your leave at once. You get up to 12 weeks of leave per year, which you can break up as necessary to care for your family member. (And just in case you were wondering, under the FMLA, you can only take intermittent leave if it’s medically necessary. Otherwise, you need your employer’s approval to break up the 12 weeks.)

Related: California employee rights

Is My Job Safe When I’m on Leave to Care for a Family Member?

Your job is safe – you won’t be fired. In fact, your employer is legally obligated to reinstate you to the same job you had or a comparable job. The catch: if there are circumstances unrelated to your leave that cut your job, you’re not entitled to get it back when you return. For example, if your entire department shuts down and there’s no job for anyone you used to work with, you won’t have a job when you return; likewise, if your company went through a round of layoffs and people with jobs like yours were cut, you may not have a job to go back to. This rarely happens, though – it’s a special circumstance that most people never have to worry about. 

Related: Laid off versus fired: What are the differences?

Is Family Leave Paid for Under CFRA?

You may receive pay if you take CFRA leave to care for a family member. If your employer pays other employees on this type of leave, it must also pay you. You can also use your accrued paid time off (vacation time) if you want to be paid. You may even apply for State Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave (commonly called PFL); if you qualify, you’ll receive pay.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Taking Leave From Work to Care for a Family Member?

If your employer denied you CFRA leave, or if you were fired, discriminated against or suffered other negative consequences because you took time off to care for a family member, we may be able to help you. Call our office at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below. We’ll give you the legal advice you need right now.

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