California Family Rights Act – What it is and How it Works

CFRA (California Family Rights Act) is a health law for California residents. This law does not override FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) but was amended to mirror it. There are a few differences between the two which we will highlight in this article.

The law dictates that once leave is over, the employer must let them return to their position or a comparable position with the same pay, benefits, and seniority. While on leave, the staff continues to enjoy the same health benefits and accrue seniority.

How does one qualify for CFRA?

An employee must have worked for the covered employer for 12 months accumulating not less than 1,250 hours before applying for leave.

What Reasons Warrant CFRA Leave?

  1. Getting a child

The law allows parents to taken leave upon birth, foster placement, or adoption of a child.

  1. Serious Health Condition (SHC)

An employee with a serious health condition that deters him or her from working can take CFRA Leave. Such conditions include an injury, illness, impairment, physical, or mental conditions that cause incapacity or require post inpatient care.

A serious condition is appraised by circumstances such as the inability to attend regular duties for 3+ consecutive days. A patient may also be undergoing treatment or is under the supervision of a health care staff.

It could also mean an incurable or curable long-term disease. Note, plastic surgery is not covered under Serious Health Conditions unless it is done for restoration after an accident. 

  1. Taking care of a sick family member

An employee whose immediate family member has the above-described serious health conditions is qualified for CFRA to leave to help them take care of the ailing person. This law limits family members to a parent, a spouse, or a child.      

The difference between California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The CFRA imitates FMLA in many ways but there a few major differences between the two. These are:

1. Covering of domestic partners

CFRA covers registered domestic partners as an immediate family while FMLA does not.

2. FMLA provides for a qualifying exigency. 

That means if a spouse, parent, or child of the employee is in active military. The employee can apply for 12 weeks’ leave (health cover included), to support contingency operation for the family member upon notification of an impending call to service. For FMLA to cover, the family member has to be a member of the guard, a retired Armed Services member, or a reserve. CFRA does not cover this.

3. Caring for a sick or injured service member

Both CFRA and FMLA allow an employee whose spouse, parent, or child has been injured on active duty to take 26 weeks of leave to take care of them. The only difference with the covers is in addition to a parent, child, and spouse, FMLA covers the next of kin of a qualified service member while CFRA does not.

  1. Combined leave for co-working spouses

Under FMLA, eligible spouses who work for the same employer combine their leave. For instance, they should apply for 12 weeks’ leave in a year upon getting a child. CFRA doesn’t allow couples to combine leave.

  1. Pregnancy

FMLA considers pregnancy a serious health condition while CFRA does not.

In summary, CFRA and FMLA can run concurrently. That is, where an employee is eligible for both, they can take 12 weeks combined. It’s also possible for an eligible employee to take 12 weeks CFRA leave and an additional 12 weeks FMLA leave. This totals 24 weeks of leave as long as the leaves serve separate purposes.

For instance, take 12 weeks CFRA leave on getting a child and another 12 weeks to care for a spouse or domestic partner or next of kin (who are essentially not part of the family under the FMLA) and additionally qualify for 12 weeks of FMLA to care for a child, spouse, or parent, for a total of 24 weeks.

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