Family and Medical Leave

By: Lindsay Fitch

Just when you thought you finally understood employee rights and employer obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), you realize that you are in California, where employee privacy rights loom large and the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) also comes into play.  Although both laws are intended for the same purposes—to provide employees of larger employers with protected time off for various medical conditions and family situations—the CFRA tightens the reins on the information available to the employer.  Of course you want to give your employees what they need, but you also want to make sure the request is legitimate. 

So, as a California employer, what are you entitled to ask your employee about the need for CFRA leave?  Far less than under the FMLA, it turns out.  You can ask: 

        Is the employee qualified?  Under both the FMLA and CFRA, employees are qualified for leave when they have a serious health condition or when they need to care for a family member with a verified serious health condition.  A “serious health condition” is an illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves one of the following: 

  •       Hospital care
  •      Absence (incapacity) plus treatment  
  •      Chronic conditions requiring treatment
  •      Permanent/long term conditions requiring supervision
  •      Multiple treatments for certain (non-chronic) conditions
  •      Pregnancy (a serious health condition under FMLA, but not under CFRA) 

        How Should I Know?  I’m Not a Doctor.  Fortunately, you can require a medical certification to verify the serious health condition, which must include some specific information to be sufficient.
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