How to Get Started with FMLA/CFRA Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 grants eligible employees job protection and continued group health care coverage based on certain health or family-related issues. Employees may take a leave of absence for up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period without penalty. The U.S. government enacted FMLA to provide rights and protections to workers,. 


As with the FMLA, an employer who employs 50 or more persons in the state of California is covered by the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). If the leave is common to both the CFRA and FMLA, the 12-month period under the CFRA runs concurrently with the 12-month period under the FMLA.


The following outlines the first steps to take if employment leave becomes necessary under either one of these laws. 


Who Is Entitled to FMLA/CFRA Leave?

To be eligible for leave under the FMLA or CFRA, an employee must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Employed by the employer for at least 12 months as of the date leave commences;
  • Employed for at least 1250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding commencement of the leave; and
  • Employed at a worksite where the employer employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles.


Under the FMLA, employees have leave rights for any of the following reasons:

  • Serious health condition of the employee;
  • Serious health condition of a child, spouse, or parent;
  • Birth of a child and to care for the child;
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
  • A “qualifying exigency” arising out of the fact that an employee’s family member is on active duty in the Armed Forces; or
  • To care for an injured service member or veteran during rehabilitation.

An employee is entitled to a leave of absence under the CFRA because of:

  • A serious health condition of employee;
  • A serious health condition of a child, spouse, registered domestic partner or parent;
  • The birth of a son or daughter; or
  • The adoption and placement of a son or daughter for foster care.


It is important to know also that in California, effective January 1, 2018, employers with 20 or more employees must provide eligible employees (same eligibility requirements as previously stated) with 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected parental leave under the New Parent Leave Act (“Parental Leave” SB 63). An eligible employee can use Parental Leave to bond with a newborn or a child placed with the employee for adoption or foster care. 

What Do I Tell My Employer?

While your employer is not entitled to every detail of your situation, you must provide enough information so that they can approve your request. Communicating a general reason, i.e. pregnancy, illness, etc. should be enough for their HR team to review. You do not need to mention FMLA or CFRA in your request unless you have been granted leave for the same reason in the past.

When Should I Notify My Employer?

Although a 30-day notice is required, some situations arise that make an advanced notice impossible. To avoid unnecessary inconvenience to your employer, use your best judgment, and notify them as soon as possible.

What Happens Next?

Your employer has five days upon receipt of the notice to decide whether it will be counted as FMLA/CFRA leave. If approved, your employer must communicate the following:

  • Expectations, obligations, and any such information pertaining to your leave
  • If you must provide proof of your FMLA/CFRA leave qualification
  • Changes in your rights or responsibilities
  • If you will need to provide a doctor’s note verifying you are fit to return to work
  • If paid leave will be used instead of unpaid FMLA/CFRA leave
  • How much time will be counted as FMLA/CFRA leave


Your employer is obligated to provide you with documentation of this information if requested, as well as any updates or changes that arise over the course of your FMLA/CFRA leave.

Congress recently enacted the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) in March 2020, expanding an employee’s rights under the FMLA, relating to COVID-19. The policies are in effect until the end of 2020 and provide an additional qualifying reason for FMLA – the employee leave is to care for his or her child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. So long as the employee has been working for at least 30 days prior to taking the leave, he or she is entitled to job-protected FMLA leave for this newly qualified reason. The first 2 weeks of this emergency paid leave is unpaid, however, the following 10 weeks are paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 per employee.


If you believe your company is unjustly denying you FMLA or CFRA leave, we can help. Please contact Gokal Law at 949-753-9100.


Gokal Law Group is a family firm that treats our clients as if they were our own flesh and blood. We fight for our clients as we would our own children, sisters, brothers, and parents. We are our clients’ Warriors, fighting to bring them justice and right the wrongs they have endured.

Each attorney has a specific practice area for which they are tried, tested, and battle-ready. They have vast years of experience in their practice area, providing them the knowledge, skills, and vision to fight and win. Learn more about Gokal Law Group.

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