Question:

It seems like every other day I have an employee requesting leave for one reason or another. Sometimes it seems like there must be hundreds of different kinds of leaves of absence! To be honest, I’m not even sure which kinds of leave I am legally required to provide. Is this something you can help me with?

Answer:

It’s true that there are a variety of different types of leaves of absence in California. The different types of leave, their varying lengths, and the different employer requirements can be a confusing combination for many employers. It is also true that things like your company’s location and the number of individuals you employ can impact your leave obligations. The following is a summary of the most common types of leave in California, as well as a summary of the duration of each leave and which employers are subject to its requirements:

  • Jury/Witness Duty—All employers must allow
    their employees time off to serve on a jury or to serve as a witness in a court proceeding. There is no legal requirement to pay a non-exempt employee’s wages while serving on a jury or as a witness, though an employer may be required to pay an exempt employee’s wages if he/she performs any work during the workweek that he/she is off.
  • Time Off to Vote—All employers are required to provide leave if an employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote in a statewide election. Employees may take up to 2 hours of working time (with pay) to vote, either at the beginning or the end of the employee’s regular shift.
  • School Discipline Leave—All employers must permit the parent or guardian of a child who has been suspended from school to take time off if he/she must appear at the school in connection with the suspension. The time off may be paid or unpaid at the employer’s discretion.
  • Crime Victims Leave—All employers must allow an employee to be absent from work in order to attend judicial proceedings related to a crime if the employee was a victim of the crime, or is the immediate family member of the victim. This type of leave is unpaid.
  • Volunteer Civil Service Leave—All employers are required to provide unpaid time off for certain individuals required to perform emergency duty, such as volunteer firefighters, reserve peace officers, and emergency rescue personnel. Employers with 50 or more employees must allow an employee who is a volunteer firefighter to take up to 14 days a year off to engage in fire or law enforcement training.
  • Sick Leave (“Kin Care”)—Employers are not required to provide sick leave. However, if you do provide sick leave, you must allow employees to use up to one half of their annual, accrued sick leave time to care for their sick child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, or child of a registered domestic partner.
  • Military Leave—All employers must provide employees with time off to serve in the U.S. military uniformed services, which include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard (and each branch’s Reserves), Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and commissioned corps of the Public Health Service. The period of protected military leave is usually for a maximum of 5 years, though there are some exceptions which extend the period beyond that timeframe.
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave—This type of leave provides for an unpaid leave of absence of up to 4 months, during which the employee’s position (or a comparable one) must be held open for her. California employers with 5 or more employees are subject to Pregnancy Disability Leave laws.
  • Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault—Employers must permit an employee to take time off in order to obtain a restraining order or other court assistance to protect him/herself or his/her child. Employers with 25 or more employees must also provide time off to seek medical attention caused by domestic violence, to obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program or rape crisis center, to obtain counseling, or to participate in safety planning to prevent further instances of domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
  • Military Spouse Leave—This new type of leave allows spouses of “qualified members” of the Armed Forces, National Guard, or Reserves to take up to ten days of unpaid leave while their spouses are home on leave. This law applies to employers with 25 or more employees, and was effective October 9, 2007.
  • School Visit Leave—This permits employees with children or (in some instances) grandchildren may take up to 40 hours off per calendar year to participate in activities of the children’s school or licensed daycare facility. This law applies to employers with 25 or more employees.
  • California Family Rights Act Leave (CFRA)—Under CFRA, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period for baby bonding, to care for a child, parent, spouse or registered domestic partner with a serious health condition, or for the employee’s own serious health condition. This type of leave may be taken on an intermittent basis in some cases. Employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius are required to provide CFRA leave.
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)—In most cases, this type of leave runs concurrently with CFRA leave. Eligible employees on FMLA may therefore take up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period to care for a child, parent or spouse with a serious health condition, or for the employee’s own serious health condition. Like CFRA leave, FMLA leave may be taken on an intermittent basis in some cases. Employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius are required to provide FMLA leave.

Keep in mind that these are only brief summaries of the various types of leave in California, some of which involve very specific notice and reinstatement requirements. You should also note that, in the case of unpaid leaves of absence, your employees may be able to use accrued vacation, personal, and/or sick time during the course of the leave.
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