Are there special leaves that I must give my employees that are unique to California law?

Yes – many.

In California, your business has a potential leave of absence legal issue any time an employee starts missing work or showing up late to work. If you have 50 or more employees (full and part time) then the quagmires known as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) apply to your business.

Even for smaller employers there are many leave related claims under California law (not an exhaustive list):

  • Employee is injured on the job (worker’s compensation leave), you fire them, reduce their hours, or take other “adverse action” – this is known as a “Labor Code section 132a” claim. Employee gets increased benefits up to $10,000, costs up to $250, lost wages and reinstatement.
  • Employee informs you she is pregnant. Unless you have less than 5 employees, get ready to provide up to 4 months leave (including intermittent leave even in small increments of time) to the extent she is disabled due to her pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions (e.g. severe morning sickness, bed rest before or after childbirth, etc.). You must also return her to work in the same or “comparable” position.
  • Good employee with you for 5 ½ years suddenly starts having tardiness and absenteeism problems. Performance also takes a nosedive. You counsel employee about recent shortcomings and they inform you they are seeing a doctor, have been having dizzy spells, and that’s why they have been missing work and not performing well. Be prepared to provide leave for a “physical or mental disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) federal law and/or the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) or perhaps a medical condition under the FEHA.
  • In the prior example, if dizzy spells are found to be job-related this could also be a workers’ compensation leave situation. Add your business has 50+ employees and then a “serious health condition” under the FMLA/CFRA may also apply.
  • “Sick leave” is not legally required. If you provide it though, be prepared to allow your employees to use 50% of the annual sick leave entitlement, if accrued and available, to care not only for themselves, but also for a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner under California law.
  • In California as of 2004 we now have “paid family leave.” Luckily employers don’t have to pay into the fund and don’t get charged for use of benefits, only employees do. Employees are entitled to up to six (6) weeks of “paid leave” during a twelve-month period to care for an ill child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner, or to bond with a child by birth, adoption, or foster-care placement.
  • If you have 25 or more employees, California employers must provide “reasonable” time off for an employee to participate (a) in their child’s school activities (field trips, plays, soccer games, band, etc.), (b) in an adult literacy program and/or (c) alcohol or drug rehabilitation program.

Other California specific leaves include time off to victims of crime, sexual assault or domestic violence, volunteer firefighters, for law enforcement training, and election officials.