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An update to the existing California Family Rights Act (CRFA) went into effect on January 1, 2021. The changes significantly impact how employers must provide leave for Californian families. Unfortunately, some employers may not be aware of the changes or may even try to skirt around the requirements of the law. It is vital for employees to know their rights so they can recognize when their employers are in violation and insist on getting the job protections and family and medical leave they deserve.

Here’s what you need to know about the updates to the law and how they may impact you.

What Is the California Family Rights Act?

The California Family Rights Act was initially passed in 1993. Still, the updates that were signed on September 17, 2020—and went into effect on January 1, 2021—are substantial and have made the act applicable to a much broader set of employees.

Generally speaking, the CFRA provides unpaid leave and protects the jobs of those who must take time off work for certain eligible medical- or family-related events. While the law has much in common with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there are some important distinctions to CFRA that give Californians additional protections.

Who Is Covered by the California Family Rights Act?

In the past, the CFRA—like FMLA—covered those employed by a business with 50 or more employees. The new changes to the law greatly expanded access to CFRA when it declared that small businesses hiring five or more employees would have to follow the CFRA.

Additional eligibility requirements for the CFRA include a time-based threshold. An eligible employee must have worked for more than 12 months and accrued at least 1,250 hours of service during a 12-month period. That averages to approximately 24 hours per week of employment over a year, covering many part-time employees.

CFRA applies to individuals who need time off for a variety of qualifying events:

  • Time to bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted child, or a child recently placed in the home for foster care
  • Providing caretaking services for a family member with serious health needs
  • Tending to the employee’s own serious health needs, including disability caused by pregnancy or childbirth

Under the CFRA, a qualifying employee-facing one of these conditions is eligible for up to 12 weeks of leave with the guarantee that their job (or a nearly identical one) will be available when they return. This is true even if the employer has replaced the employee in the interim.


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What Should I Do if I’m Being Denied My Rights?

If you qualified for CFRA and were not given the opportunity to return to your job at the end of your leave, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against your employer. Those seeking to file suit against an employer for failing to uphold the requirements of the CFRA are first required to obtain a letter from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing giving them the right to sue.

For those employed by small businesses (defined as those with 5-19 employees), there is a pilot program underway for mediation that will be in effect until January 1, 2024. Employees who fall under this category will file their claims under that pilot program for mediation.

Regardless of your employer’s size, an experienced California employee rights attorney can provide guidance on the best way forward.

Filing a Claim Against an Employer for Violating the California Family Rights Act

When your rights have been violated, it can be daunting to handle all the paperwork and requirements for filing a lawsuit. Still, holding employers accountable for the law is integral to ensuring that companies maintain a safe and fair work environment for all employees.

Upholding the California Family Rights Act is an important step to ensuring that those facing a substantial medical or family-related event have the peace of mind to return to their employment with minimal disruptions. Filing a claim when those rights have been violated not only helps employees who have been wrongly denied coverage but it also acts as a preventative measure for violations in the future against other employees.

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How Can an Employee Rights Lawyer Help Me?

An employee rights lawyer can help you understand all the details of the California Family Rights Act and how it applies to your case. Armed with this knowledge, you and your lawyer can file a claim with confidence and clarity, understanding the likely next steps and gathering the information necessary to prove your claim.

In filing a claim, you will need to demonstrate that you have met the requirements of the law in the form of giving adequate notice before taking leave (when applicable) and that you attempted to return to your position within the given time frame. Having documentation to adequately demonstrate these details will make your case go much smoother, and an employee rights lawyer can help make sure you have the right kind of evidence available.

Frequently (un)asked questions

The leave guaranteed under the CFRA is unpaid, so you cannot get paid directly from the California Family Rights Act. However, there are other laws in effect under which you may be eligible for payment.

Employers with five or more employees must provide leave under the CFRA. Eligible employees have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours of service during a 12-month period. Eligible employees must have a qualifying event such as a medical need of their own; they need to serve as a medical caretaker for a family member or the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.

The CFRA and FMLA have many similarities, but some key differences exist. CFRA applies to employers who employ five or more employees, while FMLA applies to those who employ 50 or more. In addition, the CFRA extends the qualifying family members for whom an employee can serve as a caretaker to include domestic partners, grandparents, siblings, and grandchildren. The FMLA allows for special caregiver leave for military service members, but the CFRA does not.

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Top-Rated Employee Rights Lawyer

After experiencing any type of harassment or discrimination in the workplace, it’s difficult to know where to turn and who you can trust. At the Malk Law Firm, we have successfully represented employees against large and small companies (all over California and Washington) in various labor and employment-related lawsuits.

Trust our team to fight for your rights in the workplace. Our employee rights lawyer is available for a consultation to discuss your options. Please reach out today to tell us about your case.

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