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Overview of California Family Rights Act

Are you a California resident and/or an employer curious about CFRA eligibility? Keep reading to learn more.

Blog Author - Justworks
Justworks
Apr 17, 20244 minutes
Blog Author - Justworks
Justworks

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. This law is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but it applies to employers with 5 or more employees, while the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees.

Are you wondering exactly what’s covered under CFRA? This article provides an overview of this California-specific law, including eligibility requirements, covered reasons for leave, the application process, and returning to work after CFRA leave.

California Family Rights Act Eligibility

To be eligible for CFRA leave, a California employee must meet the following requirements:

  • Have been employed by the organization for a total of at least 12 months

  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to taking leave

If an employee meets the CFRA eligibility requirements, they are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period for certain family and medical reasons.

Covered Reasons for CFRA Leave

CFRA may be taken for qualifying serious health conditions and/or parental leave. 

CFRA Serious Health Conditions

An eligible employee may take leave under the CFRA for their own serious health condition or that of a qualifying family member. 

  • The employee's own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job duties

  • To care for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or a designated person with a serious health condition

The CFRA defines a designated person as an individual to whom the employee is related by blood or with whom the employee shares a family-like relationship. 

Parental Leave Under CFRA

Parental leave is one of the most common reasons for taking CFRA leave. Eligible employees may take parental leave under CFRA for one of the following reasons: 

  • The birth of a child and to bond with the newborn within the first year of birth

  • The placement of a child for adoption or foster care and to bond with the newly placed child within the first year of placement

Applying for CFRA Leave

To apply for CFRA leave, an employee must give their employer at least 30 days' notice, if possible. When an employee’s need for leave is not foreseeable, such as an unexpected illness, the employee must give notice as soon as possible.

The employer may require the employee to provide medical certification for their own serious health condition or that of a qualifying family member. This certification must be provided within 15 days of the employer's request.

Returning to Work After CFRA Leave

At the end of the CFRA leave, an employee is entitled to return to the same position they were in before taking leave or a comparable position with the same pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment. 

  • If an employee takes CFRA leave for their own serious health condition, they may be required to provide a fitness-for-duty certification from their health care provider before returning to work

  • If an employee is unable to return to work at the end of the leave, they may be entitled to additional leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Key Differences: CFRA vs. FMLA

The California Family Rights Act is often compared to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). There are some similarities. For example, both laws provide job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons, and neither law requires employers to provide paid leave. There are also some key differences between these two laws, including: 

  • Jurisdiction: The CFRA is a state law, and the FMLA is a federal law 

  • Employer size: As mentioned earlier, the CFRA applies to employers with 5 or more employees, while the FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees

  • Family definition for serious health condition: FMLA limits the definition of family member to child, parent, or spouse, while CFRA has a much broader definition of family

  • Splitting parental leave: When both parents work for the same employer, FMLA allows the employer to require them to split the 12 weeks of parental leave. CFRA entitles both parents to 12 weeks each 

California employers with 50 or more employees must comply with both FMLA and CFRA; those with 5 or more employees but fewer than 50 must comply with CFRA but not FMLA. 

The CFRA does not require employers to pay employees while they are on leave. However, an employee who is eligible for CFRA may be eligible for compensation under California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) or State Disability Insurance (SDI) programs, both of which are administered by the state’s Employment Development Department (EDD). 

Justworks Can Help Make Sense of CFRA

Understanding the California Family Rights Act and its requirements is important for employers and employees alike. By following the guidelines and providing proper notice and documentation, employees can take the time they need for family and medical reasons without fear of losing their jobs, and employers can meet their employees' leave needs while effectively navigating what can be a complicated area of compliance. 

Whether you’re a California-based employer or are located elsewhere but have remote employees who work in the state, the CRFA isn’t the only law you need to know about and follow. Working with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) like Justworks is a great way to get the help you need with employer-related compliance and related tasks like onboarding, payroll, and more. 

Get in touch with us today and discover how we can help you navigate California compliance and any other federal and multi-state employment laws that may apply to your company, freeing you up to focus on running and building your business.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.
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Written By
Blog Author - Justworks
Justworks
Apr 17, 20244 minutes

Justworks is a technology company that levels the playing field for all small businesses. Through our software and as a partner, we help our customers take care of their teams, streamline their operations, and navigate the complex aspects of managing a workforce with confidence.

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