Can my employees work from home while they are out on a family or medical leave of absence?


No, if your employees qualify for family or medical leave, they generally should not be working, even from home.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provide a maximum of 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for eligible employees who are unable to work due to the following circumstances:

  • A pregnancy-related disability;
  • Bonding with a newborn, an adopted child or a child placed in foster care with an employee;
  • Caring for a child, parent, spouse, or registered domestic partner with a serious health condition;
  • The employee’s own serious health condition;
  • A qualifying exigency relating to a close family member’s military service; or
  • Caring for an ill or injured covered service member, including certain veterans (for up to 26 weeks instead of 12 weeks).

The basis for FMLA/CFRA leave is the employee’s inability to work. For FMLA/CFRA leave involving a health condition, you should require your employees to provide medical certification. The medical certification will inform you whether the employee is unable to work at all, or if the employee can work on an intermittent or reduced schedule.

Occasionally, an employee who is deemed unable to work at all and who is on approved FMLA/CFRA leave will perform some work from home. This has become more of an issue as technological advances have made it easier for employees to perform work and communicate with coworkers from any location. This practice creates risks for the employer and makes accurate tracking of FMLA/CFRA more difficult than ever.

To ensure compliance, you should have appropriate personnel policies in place. As a general rule, you should not permit employees who are on FMLA/CFRA leave to work, even from home, unless expressly approved for leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis. This means you should avoid calling or emailing employees on leave with work-related questions or requests, even if the requests seem minor. If the employee’s medical certification states that the employee is unable to work at all because of a qualifying reason, the employee should not perform any work-related tasks from home or anywhere else.

There may be exceptional circumstances when an employee performs some work-related tasks while on FMLA/CFRA leave. In general, work performed from home will not count against an employee’s 12-week leave allotment under either the FMLA or the CFRA. To maintain compliance with state and federal law in such circumstances, you should require employees on leave to track and report all time spent working from home. You must pay employees for such time pursuant to your regular payroll procedures. All time spent working from home must be deducted from any calculation of FMLA/CFRA leave used by the employee.

For additional information about FMLA AND CFRA, go to and

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Back to Menu- Work Place Law 2013 Articles