Employees in California have the right to take unpaid leave from their job in certain scenarios. The company needs to have at least five employees under California law, and the employee must have worked for the company for long enough to qualify.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) creates the right to unpaid leave under federal law, while the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) expands on those rights. For example, the FMLA only applies to workplaces with 50 workers and more, but the CFRA applies to any company with five employees or more.
There are typically three circumstances in which workers can request unpaid leave.
A family member needs care
If a worker’s spouse requires surgery or their child has cancer, they can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in one year to help care for the medical needs of an immediate family member.
They require medical treatment
Many people assert their rights under the FMLA/CFRA because they need medical care. This leave can help someone recovering from a car crash or an invasive medical procedure take the time they need to heal before getting back to work.
They add a child to the family
The third and final reason that people can ask for unpaid leave from work is when they add children to their household. Families can ask for leave after the birth of an infant, but parents could also request leave after an adoption or the placement of a foster child with their family.
Knowing when workers can take unpaid leave helps both employees and employers navigate this sometimes-contentious issue.