When do you have to allow workers to take unpaid leave?

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Companies operating in California need to comply with federal laws, as well as more demanding California state employment laws. Federal employment laws extend certain rights to your workers, and sometimes California passes laws that expand on those rights.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) establishes federal rules that allow workers to take unpaid leave. However, only those who have been with the company for a year and companies with dozens of employees are subject to the FMLA.

California expanded on federal leave laws with the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). When does the CFRA apply to your employee’s leave request?

What the CFRA covers

If you have five workers or more, then a worker can request leave under the CFRA. Like with the FMLA, most workers can request up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for three specific reasons. Adding a new child to the family, undergoing medical care or supporting a family member can qualify someone for unpaid leave. Adoption and foster placement qualify in addition to birth when someone expands their family.

If someone wants leave to take care of a family member, the CFRA expands the pool of people that they can care for without endangering their job. The FMLA only applies to spouses, children and parents. Workers in California can take leave to care for domestic partners, the children of domestic partners, a grandchild, a grandparent or a sibling as well.

If your worker’s circumstances justify their leave request, you may have to allow them to take unpaid leave and then return to the company later. Learning more about your employment law obligations to your workers can help you avoid potentially expensive mistakes.