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Family Medical Leave for California Employees – A Basic Overview

For California employees, both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provide up to 12 weeks per year of job-protected, unpaid leave because of:

  • (1) the employee’s serious health condition, or
  • (2) to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, parent, or, in California, domestic partner) who has a serious health condition, or
  • (3) for the birth or adoption of a child or for the foster care placement of a child; or
  • (4) certain situations for active duty military members and their immediate family members

“Serious Health Condition”

One of the key phrases in FMLA or CFRA leave is that the leave time must be taken to treat a “serious health condition.” Serious health conditions include:

  • An overnight stay in a hospital
  • Being incapacitated for 3 or more consecutive days, and (i) receiving two or more treatments by a health care provider within 30 days, or (ii) continuing treatment under the supervision of a health care provider
  • Taking time to treat a chronic health condition such as asthma, diabetes or epilepsy which requires periodic treatments for an extended period of time
  • Conditions which require multiple treatments such as cancer treatments (e.g. chemotherapy or radiation), severe arthritis, kidney dialysis, or restorative surgery
  • Pregnancy. Under the FMLA, pregnancy is a serious health condition if the employee is unable to work. However, in California, the right pregnancy leave, even if the woman is able to work, is protected under the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law.

It is important to note that many routine illnesses are not “serious health conditions.” For example, ordinarily, unless complications arise, the common cold, the flu, ear aches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches other than migraine, and routine dental problems or diseases do not meet the definition of a serious health condition and do not qualify for protected medical leave.

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