How your employer may have violated your leave rights.
Updated: Aug 14
In California, employees enjoy various leave rights to maintain a healthy work-life balance. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) are vital in protecting these rights. While these laws are designed to support employees during challenging times, it is crucial to be aware of common violations that may occur. In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of FMLA and CFRA, shedding light on common violations that Californian employees should be familiar with.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law granting eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for specific family and medical reasons.
To be eligible for FMLA, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months, accumulated 1,250 hours of work in the previous 12 months, and be employed at a company with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
FMLA allows employees to take leave for their own serious health condition, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, for the birth or adoption of a child, or for qualifying exigencies related to military service.
Common FMLA Violations
Improper Eligibility Determination
Employers may incorrectly assess an employee's eligibility for FMLA leave, leading to the denial of their rightful leave rights.
Employers must adequately notify employees about their FMLA rights and obligations. Failure to do so can hinder employees from exercising their leave rights appropriately.
California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
The California Family Rights Act is a state law providing broader leave rights compared to FMLA. CFRA extends FMLA protections to employees not covered by federal law and applies to employers with five or more employees.
CFRA Leave Eligibility
Eligible employees under CFRA can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave within a 12-month period for their own serious health condition, to care for a family member, or to bond with a new child.
CFRA expands the definition of family members to include domestic partners, parents-in-law, and adult children.
Common CFRA Violations
Employers cannot retaliate against employees for exercising their CFRA rights, such as denying promotions or subjecting them to adverse actions.
Failure to Reinstate
After taking CFRA leave, employees have the right to return to the same or an equivalent position. Employers must promptly reinstate employees, and failure to do so may constitute a violation.
Why do employers violate employees' leave rights?
It is important to note that not all violations are intentionally malicious, as some may result from misunderstandings, lack of awareness, or misinterpretations of the law. However, there are situations where employers may intentionally or negligently violate an employee's leave rights. Here are a few potential reasons behind such actions:
Lack of Knowledge or Understanding
Employers may not be fully aware of the intricacies and requirements of various leave laws, leading to unintentional violations due to a lack of knowledge or misinterpretation of eligibility criteria.
Cost and Productivity Concerns
Employers may violate employee leave rights due to concerns about costs and maintaining productivity, viewing extended leave as disruptive to operations.
Limited Resources or Inadequate Staffing
Some employers, particularly small businesses or those with limited resources, may struggle to provide adequate coverage during employee leave. Rather than implementing proper contingency plans, they may attempt to deny or discourage employees from taking leave to mitigate operational impacts.
Retaliation or Discrimination
In unfortunate cases, employers may retaliate against employees for exercising their leave rights or take advantage of their vulnerable situation, driven by personal biases, discrimination, or a desire to punish employees for asserting their rights.
Misalignment with Corporate Culture
Certain organizations may undervalue work-life balance or prioritize work commitments to an excessive extent. In such environments, employers may disregard or undermine employee leave rights, perceiving them as hindrances to productivity or profitability.
It’s important to know your rights
FMLA and CFRA play crucial roles in safeguarding employee leave rights in California. By understanding the key provisions of these acts, employees can ensure they are adequately protected. However, it is important to be aware of potential violations that may occur. If you believe your rights have been violated, consider seeking legal counsel or contacting the Civil Rights Department (CRD) to understand your options and protect your rights.