The meager protections offered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) have been a favorite subject for journalists for years. As a federal law, FMLA outlines only the minimum protections that employers must offer to employees regarding absences from work due to the employee’s illness or family caregiving obligations; state and local laws can offer increased protections, and individual employers are free to set their own policies regarding paid leave benefits. California’s laws are much more friendly to workers than the federal minimum requirements, with regard to family and medical leave, as in other areas. Case in point, the federal minimum wage is only $7.25 per hour, but the statewide minimum wage in California is more than twice that at $15.50 per hour, and employers in San Francisco must pay employees at least $18.07. As for family and medical leave, FMLA’s purpose is to prevent employees from retaliating against employees who must take a leave of absence from work for health reasons or family caregiving reasons. California law upholds the protections granted by FMLA and expands on them, even requiring employers to offer a limited amount of paid sick leave. The San Francisco Family and Medical Leave Act lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you resolve disputes with your employer relating to family leave or medical leave.
Which Family Members Can Benefit From an Employee’s Family Leave?
FMLA protects the right of employees to take a leave of absence from work for medical or family-related reasons. The leave of absence may last up to 12 weeks. It prohibits employers from terminating the employee’s employment, reducing the employee’s pay, or otherwise taking adverse action against the employee.
Federal law does not require every employer to grant these protections to every employee. The provisions of FMLA apply only if the employment relationship meets all of the following criteria:
- The employee has worked for the company continuously for at least one year at the time he or she applies for FMLA leave
- In the 365 days leading up to the beginning of the FMLA leave, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours
- The employer must have at least 50 employees on the payroll at one work location or at several work locations within a 75-mile radius
You can request FMLA leave for reasons related to your own health, such as if you need surgery that has a long recovery time or if your doctor advises you to take several weeks off of work to recover from an acute illness. Employees are also eligible for FMLA leave when they are providing care for a spouse, parent, or child who is ill. FMLA leave also lets you take up to 12 weeks of work to welcome a child to your family through birth, adoption, or fostering. If your spouse, parent, or child is in the military, you may also use FMLA leave in connection to a qualifying event of your military family member.
The California Family Rights Act
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) expands on the protections offered by FMLA in several important ways. CFRA leave is still unpaid (unless your employer’s policies entitle employees to paid family leave), but it does give California workers the following additional protections:
- All employers who employ at least five workers must provide CFRA leave.
- The five workers can be located anywhere; they do not have to be within a 75-mile radius.
- The family members to whose care you can apply CFRA leave include not only your parents, spouse, and children but also your siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, cousins, or unmarried domestic partners.
Furthermore, the California Small Necessities Act grants the parents of minor children up to 24 hours per year of leaves of absence from work to accompany or transport your children for reasons related to their education or healthcare. This includes parent-teacher conferences, early release days from school, teacher planning days, and doctors’ and dentists’ appointments.
Paid Sick Leave in San Francisco
Paid sick leave is just one of the ways in which California treats workers better than federal law requires it to treat them. The Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act (HWHFA) requires employers to accrue paid sick leave based on the number of hours they work and requires them to allow employees to take up to 24 hours (three workdays) of paid leave in a year. Employees begin to accrue sick leave once they have been working for the employer for 90 days. Full-time employees are not the only ones eligible for paid sick leave under HWHFA; part-time employees and seasonal employees are also eligible. Employees may use paid sick leave for their own medical needs or for family caregiving obligations.
Of course, your employer may choose to grant more paid sick days than just the three. If your employee handbook or employment contract guarantees more days of paid leave, then your employer must abide by the company policies or the provisions of the employment contract.
What are Your Rights if Your Health Requires You to Miss Work for More Than 12 Weeks?
FMLA and similar laws are designed to protect the rights of workers affected by acute illnesses, but what do you do if you have a health condition that lasts for more than 12 weeks? Some employers provide disability benefits that enable you to take a leave of absence from work while receiving a portion of your salary. Likewise, if you are able to work but require modifications to the work environment, you may request disability accommodations from your employer. The law requires employers to engage in a negotiation process with employees to determine which accommodations are reasonable.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Family and Medical Leave in San Francisco
Taking family leave or medical leave is a legally protected activity. The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you exercise your rights to medical leave and family caregiving leave. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.