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California builds on FMLA with paid family leave provisions

In California, paid family leave is more than just a fringe benefit — it is the law. Employees who have been denied their legal rights through the Family Medical Leave Act may have recourse against their non-compliant employers. Although that is important to note, it is also critical to remember that California has state-specific laws that provide different protections than those offered at the federal level. California has taken extra steps to protect workers whose employers may not be required to observe the provisions found in the FMLA.

There are two types of family and medical-related leave available to California residents. The federal FMLA protections do not involve financial compensation, but they do protect a worker’s job if the person needs to take time away from work. Another state program supplements the FMLA. Those provisions, known as paid family leave, are available to a wider variety of employees. Paid family leave protections extend to anyone who is covered by State Disability Insurance or a similar voluntary program. Recipients must have had at least $300 in their base period from which deductions were withheld in order to qualify. Applicants must also meet other criteria, including documentation of a relative’s medical situation or written evidence of the birth or adoption of a child.

Employees are not eligible for the PFL benefits if they are already receiving unemployment or disability insurance, or if they are not suffering a loss of wages because of the family or medical situation. Residents may also be refused medical leave payments if they are not working or attempting to obtain work at the time the leave begins. However, PFL applies to a wider range of employees and offers substantial benefits to those who may not be protected by the FMLA.

You should not assume that you are not eligible for leave or benefits simply because you have been denied medical leave by your employer. Several programs exist to protect Californians’ rights during their challenging medical and family situations. Those who have been denied time off for family leave may be entitled to compensation under both federal and state requirements.

Source: State of California Employment Development Department, “Paid Family Leave,” accessed Oct. 06, 2015

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