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California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Paid Family Leave (PFL)

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) authorizes eligible employees to take up a total of 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave during a 12-month period. While on leave, employees keep the same employer-paid health benefits they had while working. Eligible employees can take the leave for one or more of the following reasons:

  • The birth of a child or adoption or foster care placement of a child.
  • To care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition.
  • When the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition (SHC).

A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that causes or requires:

  • Any period of incapacity or treatment in connection with, or after inpatient care
  • Any period of incapacity requiring absence from work, school, or other regular daily activities, of more than 3 consecutive calendar days
  • Ongoing treatment by or under the supervision of a health care provider for a chronic or long-term health condition that is incurable
  • Restorative dental or plastic surgery after an accident or injury

Voluntary or cosmetic treatments are not "serious health conditions," unless inpatient hospital care is required because of unexpected complications. Routine preventive physical examinations are excluded.

For a full explanation of the CFRA, you can read the Family Care and Medical Leave and Pregnancy Disability Leave Poster.

There are 4 major differences between the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA):

  1. Pregnancy as a “Serious Health Condition” (SHC):
    FMLA: Covered as a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
    Pregnancy itself is not covered as a SHC. Instead, in California, a pregnant employee is entitled to a Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) of up to 4 months (16 weeks). Employers need to have only 5 or more employees for them to be subject to this Act, and there is no eligibility period for employees. The eligible CFRA employee can then take a 12-week CFRA baby bonding leave. The first 12 weeks of PDL can run concurrently with FMLA for eligible employees, and for that period, employers need to keep eligible employees health benefits.
  2. Registered Domestic Partners Equal to Spouses
    FMLA: Not covered.
    Covered under CFRA, registered domestic partners are covered just like spouses. Note that this may give a domestic partner more family leave.
  3. “Qualifying Exigency” because of employee’s or family member’s active military duty
    FMLA: Eligible FMLA employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks (3 months) of leave for “any qualifying exigency” arising because the employee has a family member (spouse, child, parent) who is on active military duty or who has been notified of an impending call to active duty status, in support of a contingency operation. Health benefits are included. The family member must be a member of the Guard, Reserve or be a retired member of the Armed Services.
    Not covered under CFRA.
  4. Care for Ill or Injured Service Member
    FMLA: Covered. An employee who is the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member may take a total of 26 weeks (6.5 months) of leave during a 12-month period to care for a covered service member who is ill or injured in the line of duty on active duty. Health benefits are included.
    Covered under CFRA if family member is a spouse, child, or parent.

Under a 2007 California military spouse leave law, an employee who works 20+ hours per week for an employer with 25+ employees can take an unpaid leave of up to 10 work days while the military spouse is on leave from deployment. Some or all of this may run concurrently with exigency leave.

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

This law says employers with 5 or more employees must give you up to 12 weeks (3 months) of unpaid disability leave because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related illness. California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) also requires that employers supply you with a reasonable accommodation and transfer you to a less hazardous or strenuous job. However, employers can deny any reasonable accommodation request if they can prove it would be an undue burden.

California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL)

This law gives temporary disability insurance to those who take time off of work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child. It is administered by the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. It provides up to eight weeks of Paid Family Leave payments to eligible workers who take time off to care for family members. For details of Paid Family Leave, you can read more on the Employment Development Department website.

Note: Before July 1, 2020, you could only have six weeks of PFL per year.