Workers in California who need to take time off work to take care of other family members have two programs to help: California’s Paid Family Leave Act and the federal Family Medical Leave Act. The programs can run simultaneously, but they provide very different benefits. Understanding both of these programs will help California workers receive all the benefits they're entitled to.
California's Paid Family Leave Act Basics
Under California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) Act, workers who contribute to the State Disability Insurance fund through their employment receive 6 weeks of time off per year to care for an adopted or foster child, newborn baby or seriously ill immediate family member. These 6 weeks are partially paid up to 55 percent of the normal weekly wages, with a maximum per-week amount. The program is flexible, allowing workers to take off the 6 weeks whenever they wish, even taking them off on an hourly basis if needed. This accommodates workers who need to take off one day or afternoon per week so a family member can receive medical treatment, such as when someone receives chemotherapy for cancer. The program does not protect the job, position or pay rate for the worker.
How to Apply for PFL
The PFL program is administered through the California Employment Development Department, not individual employers. To apply, a worker must submit a claim to the EDD between 9 and 49 days after starting his family care leave. He must then serve a 7-day waiting period prior to receiving any benefits if he is eligible. In other words, if a worker takes off 4 weeks for the birth of a child, the first 7 days are the waiting period, and the remaining 3 weeks are a benefits period. That worker then has 3 more weeks to use for the rest of the benefit year if needed. Claims forms can be ordered by calling 1-877-238-4373 or by filling out an online request form from the EDD website.
Family Medical Leave Act Basics
The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal program that many California residents may be able to utilize. Under the program, eligible workers receive 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn child, bond with an adopted or foster child, care for an immediate family member with serious health issues or take care of their own serious health issue that prevents them from working. These are unpaid weeks off, but the program protects the individual’s job and wages for her eventual return. To be eligible, employees must have worked for covered employers for a total of 12 months, working at least 1,250 hours during those 12 months. Covered employers include all government employers, education agencies, and private-sector employers with 50 or more employees.
Receiving Protection Under FMLA
Under FMLA, employers cannot deny workers their positions when they return from approved absences, nor can they discriminate against these workers. Because FMLA does not provide payment or government services, workers do not have to apply for a benefit or program. Rather, they claim a right offered to them by law. If they feel that their employers are not following the regulations outlined in the FMLA, workers must submit a complaint through the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.