When are California Employers Required to Grant a Personal Leave of Absence?

Workers employed by California companies are entitled to take a paid or unpaid leave of absence under the following circumstances:

Family Leave

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows employees to take unpaid time off to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse or child, or for the employee’s own serious health condition, or to bond with an adopted or foster child or newborn. CFRA covers employers who do business in California and employ fifty (50) or more part-time or full-time employees. To be eligible for CFRA leave an employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours for their employer during the twelve (12) month period before taking leave.

The leave does not need to be taken in one continuous period of time. An employer may require a 30-day advance notice, but when this is not possible due to the unexpected nature of the leave, notice should be given as soon as possible. Notice can be written or verbal.

Pregnancy Disability Leave

The Pregnancy Disability Leave provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act requires companies with five (5) or more employees to grant up to four months unpaid disability leave to pregnant employees, which may be taken before or after birth during any period of time the woman is physically unable to work because of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Employees are entitled to take pregnancy disability leave in addition to any leave entitlement they might have under CFRA.

NOTE: An employee may also be eligible for six weeks of paid leave under the Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI) administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD). For further information contact the EDD at 800-480-3287 or visit the website at www.edd.ca.gov.

Sick Leave

California Labor Code Section 233 states that an employer who provides sick leave for employees must permit an employee to use accrued sick leave to attend to a child, parent or spouse who is ill (the employee is entitled to use not less than the amount of sick leave the employee would accrue in 6 months, per calendar year). Any conditions placed on sick leave usage for use by an employee also applies to sick leave used to care for a sick child, parent or spouse.

Jury Duty & Domestic Violence

Labor Code § 230 requires California employers to allow employees to take time off to serve as a juror at an inquest or trial or when the employee is a victim of a crime and is required to appear as a witness, or to obtain relief as a result of domestic violence. The employee must give reasonable notice to the employer. It is not a requirement to compensate employees for time off to serve on juries or to appear as a witness.

Volunteer First Responders

Labor Code Section 230.3 requires all employers to provide leaves of absence for employees who are required to perform emergency duty as a volunteer firefighter, a reserve police officer, or an emergency rescue worker. It is not a requirement that the employee be compensated.

Time Off To Visit The School of a Child

Labor Code Section 230.8 requires employers with twenty-five (25) or more employees working at the same location to alloww a parent, grandparent, or guardian to take up to forty (40) hours off per year to participate in activities at his or her child’s school or day care facility. The employee must give reasonable notice to the employer. Employees must first utilize existing vacation, personal leave or compensatory time off for this purpose. The time off to visit school is not required to be compensated.

Time Off To Appear At School When Required By The School

Labor Code Section 230.7 requires all employers to allow a parent, grandparent, or guardian of a student to appear at the school when the school has given advance notice. It is not a requirement that the employee be compensated for the time. The employee is required to give reasonable notice to the employer.

Time Off To Vote

If a voter does not have sufficient time to vote outside of working hours, Elections Code § 14000 requires employers to permit their employees to take off time to vote at the beginning or the end of the shift (whichever provides the most free time to vote). The employees may take off no more than two hours without loss of pay, providing he or she has given at least two working days’ notice that time off is desired.

Drug and/or Alcohol Rehabilitation

Under Labor Code Section 1025, employers with twenty-five (25) or more employees must reasonably accommodate an employee’s voluntary participation in an alcohol and/or drug rehabilitation program, provided that this reasonable accommodation does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

NOTE: An employer may refuse to hire or may discharge an employee because of the employee’s current use of alcohol and/or drugs, or because the employee is unable to perform his or her duties, or cannot perform the duties in a manner which would not endanger his or her health and safety, or the health and safety of others.

Literacy Assistance

Employers with twenty-five (25) or more employees must reasonably accommodate and assist any employee who reveals a literacy problem and requests employer assistance either in enrolling in a literacy program or in arranging visits of an instructor to the job site, provided such accommodation does not pose an undue hardship on the employer.

NOTE: An employee who satisfactorily performs his or her duties may not be discharged for disclosing a literacy program. (Labor Code Section 1401)

Temporary Military Leave & Reserve Duty

Any employee who is a member of the reserve corps of the armed forces of the United States, the National Guard or Militia is entitled to a temporary leave while engaged in military duty ordered for purposes of military training, drills, encampment, naval cruises, special duty or like activity. (Military and Veterans Code Sections 394, 394.5)


Author: Seth Heyman
Seth D. Heyman is a California attorney with extensive experience in advertising and marketing law, corporate law, contracts, governmental regulations, international business, and Internet law. He has counseled numerous successful companies, both public and private, and was responsible for regulatory compliance, contract management, corporate governance, and HR best practices for multiple organizations in many diverse industries, including marketing, telecommunications, energy, and technology development. He offers insight and guidance on federal and state direct mail, TV, radio, telemarketing, and Internet marketing laws, as well as online promotions, Internet privacy, data protection regulations, and similar matters.
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