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Paid medical leave in California: State versus federal law

The California Family Rights Act requires that employees be offered unpaid family or medical leave during certain events, including certain medical conditions that require treatment that will limit a person's attendance at work temporarily, the birth or adoption of a child or the need to care for a dependent child, elderly parent or spouse. In many ways, the California laws regarding leave are similar to the federal laws on the same topic, but there are some places the two part ways.

One thing to note is that California also has a separate law that provides for partially paid leave. That law is in addition to the law that provides for unpaid leave and it covers individuals who are dealing with an ill family member or a newly born or adopted child. Individuals are allowed to take six weeks off of work under this program and they receive partial pay. Pay is made to the person in an amount that is 55 percent of normal wages or $728 each week, whichever is greater.

The paid leave law is not limited to employers who have a minimum of 50 workers. It also doesn't require that a company with less than 50 workers hold the job placement for the person who is on paid leave, as the state and federal law that covers unpaid leave does.

Another difference between California law and federal law is that the unpaid leave requirements apply to any entity that employees a minimum of 50 people directly at a given time. The federal law has some time stipulations that the state law doesn't.

When dealing with family or medical leave, it's important to know what law you are covered by so you know what your employer is obligated to do. If you feel you are not being treated appropriated under the law regarding your leave or the ability to return to work after your leave, then you might have a legal case for compensation or recovery.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "Federal vs. California Family and Medical Leave Laws," accessed March 08, 2016

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