What happens when an employee in California is forced to miss work because of a serious injury or to take care of an immediate family member? Thankfully, legislation has been put in to place that allows workers to retain employment when certain circumstances require extended time off. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that guarantees qualified employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. California also has a FMLA law at the state level.
Employees can use FMLA leave to care for a close family member who has fallen ill or for the birth of a child. However, workers most commonly use FMLA to recover from or care for a serious injury or health condition. FMLA defines a serious health condition has any illness or impairment, physical or mental, that requires continuing treatment by a health care provider or inpatient care.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, workers must be employed for at least 1 year, or 1,250 hours, prior to the start of an FMLA leave. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, intermittent leave is also allowed, doctor permitting. This means that FMLA leave could be used on nonconsecutive days rather than one continuous span of time.
One of the main benefits of FMLA leave is the assurance of job protection. It is illegal for employers to terminate or punish eligible workers for using FMLA leave. Unfortunately, this does not prevent some employers from retaliating against employees who rightfully take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Qualified employees in California who have been punished for using FMLA could benefit from discussions with an attorney experienced in employment law. A successfully litigated lawsuit could result in a substantial monetary award as well as a sense of justice.