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Navigating Employee Leave Laws Poses Unique Challenges for Employers in California

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

While the Family and Medical Leave Act and myriad state laws determine how employers nationwide must respond to employee leaves of absence, firms operating in California can face more requirements and confusion than most, a management attorney in San Francisco said Nov. 28 during a Bloomberg BNA webinar.

Allen Kato of Fenwick & West said that the “FMLA is a very technical law.” In addition, he said, “Various California leave laws pose additional and sometimes conflicting requirements to add to employer confusion.”

Understanding how the FMLA and California leave laws intersect is crucial, he said.

One difference between the CFRA and FMLA, Kato said, is that the FMLA does not cover domestic partners, while the California law does.

“The most important advice I can give you is don't assume that the employee has FMLA rights, and don't necessarily communicate to the employee that [he or she] has FMLA rights if that is not true,” Kato said.

Kato also noted some other leave law issues unique to employers in California:

• Identify what laws address pregnancy-related leave, Kato advised. For example, pregnancy disability leave (PDL) in California applies to employers that have five or more employees. Eligible employees can take four months of PDL. “Unlike FMLA, there is no eligibility criteria or waiting period,” for PDL leave, Kato said.

• Employees in California who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault in part are entitled to unpaid time off to obtain judicial relief.

• Employees in California must be allowed to take time off to appear in a school proceeding related to a child's suspension from school. California employers with 25 or more employees must allow workers with school-age children (K-12 or in a licensed child day care facility) to take up to 40 hours a year, but not more than eight hours a month, for school activities.

• California employers with 15 or more employees must allow workers up to 30 business days in a year to donate an organ, or five business days in a year to donate bone marrow.

• Employees in California must be allowed time off to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve peace officer, or as emergency rescue/civil air patrol personnel.

 

By Rhonda Smith  

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