Required Employee Leave in California

Employers and employees in California should understand the distinct types of leave that California requires. For instance, some categories of leave require a minimum employee threshold to apply, while others do not. In July 2015, California passed a law requiring all employers, regardless of their size, to provide paid sick leave (we have an article on this topic here for you over-achievers out there).

Leave without a minimum employee threshold

Along with paid sick leave, California employers of all sizes must grant an employee the following types of leave:

Jury Duty – If an employee is called for jury duty by the local courts, then the employer must comply with this absence and protect the employee’s job for that duration. No pay is required for this leave, unless there is a labor union rule requiring jury duty pay.

Military and Reserve Duty – Under both federal and state laws, an employee who is in any branch of the military and called away for duty can have job-protected leave for up to 5 years and 10 days. This leave can be used at once or periodically based upon the employee’s service orders. But don’t worry, all the time is unpaid.

Crime Victims – This leave is for victims of a serious or violent felony to attend judicial proceedings related to that crime. This leave is unpaid.

Voting – Employees needing time off during their normal work schedule to vote in general elections or primaries are granted up to 2 hours of paid leave. However, employees must give their employers at least 2 working days’ notice of the desire to use this leave.

Bereavement – This leave is not required, but is a best practice; it occurs when an employee experiences a loss and attends a funeral. This leave may be up to 3 days and can be paid or unpaid.

In addition, employees that contribute to State Disability Insurance also qualify for California’s Paid Family Leave, which replaces income for leave taken to bond with a new baby, a newly adopted child, or a foster child, or to care for a parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner with a serious health condition. This leave is paid through and approved by, the state (not the employer).

Employers with 1-50 employees

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) – Employers with 5 or more employees must provide up to four months of leave, and must continue to provide health benefits. PDL only applies to leave taken due to disability from pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. Upon return to work, the employee must be placed in the same job or a comparable position.

New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) – This new, 2017 law applies to employers with 25 or more employees. The leave is for bonding with a new child after childbirth or placement and can be taken by mothers, fathers, legal guardians, or family members with legal rights to the child. This leave is 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, but can only be used within the first year of birth or placement and only for bonding with a new child.

Organ Donation/Bone Marrow – Employers with 15 or more employees must provide employees up to 30 days in a year with paid leave to donate an organ to another person, and up to 5 days in a year with paid leave to donate bone marrow to another person. This leave can only be used after the employee has worked for the employer for at least 90 days.

Military Family – Employers with 25 or more employees must allow up to 15 days of unpaid leave while a spouse is on leave from deployment during a time of military conflict.

School Activities – Employers with 25 or more employees must allow up to 40 hours of unpaid leave to participate in activities at a child’s school (kindergarten through twelfth grade) or daycare. The leave shall not exceed 8 hours a month.

Domestic Violence/Crime Victims – Employers with 25 or more employees must allow employees to take unpaid leave to seek judicial relief from violence for the employee or employee’s child. Also, employees who are victims of crime (employers with 25 or more employees) may take additional leave for medical attention, counseling and safety planning.

Rehabilitation – Employers with 25 or more employees must make reasonable accommodations by providing unpaid time off for any employee who voluntarily enters and participates in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, as long as it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations. This leave is job-protected.

Employers with 50+ employees

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Employers with 50 or more employees must provide unpaid family and medical leave. Family and medical leave is available for up to 12 workweeks in a year. Upon return, the employee must be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position. Leave may be taken for 12 workweeks for:

  • Qualifying exigencies relating to a family member’s active duty or call to active duty.
  • The birth of a child and to care for the newborn within one year of birth.
  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the child within one year of placement.
  • The care of the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.

Leave may be taken for 26 workweeks for the care of a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin.

California Family Rights Act – Employers with 50 or more employees must allow up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for bonding time following the birth or placement of a child in employee’s family for adoption or foster care. Leave must be taken within 12 months of the birth or adoption. (May be taken in addition to pregnancy disability leave.) Leave may also be taken for a serious health condition of an employee’s child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner or the employee’s own serious health condition.

Volunteer Firefighter, Emergency Responder, and Peace Officer – Employers with 50 or more employees must allow for leave in emergency circumstances relating to the employee’s position as a volunteer firefighter, emergency responder, or peace officer. In addition, unpaid leave is allowed for related training, so long as reasonable notice is given to the employer.

By informing everyone in your organization about California and federal required leave, you put your business on the path to success. As always, if you have any questions, we are here to help!

Revised by: Zachary Avina – 02/19/18

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