Paid Family Leave provides income replacement to you while you are on leave. It does not guarantee that your job will be protected. However, you may be eligible for job-protected leave, meaning the right to return to your same job without negative consequences, through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) (for bonding or caregiving), or California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law (when you are unable to work due to your pregnancy). If you are a union member, you may also have the right to protections and additional leave through a collective bargaining agreement.
In California, you are eligible for job protection under the above laws depending on different criteria (see below).
Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) extends job protection to pregnant workers who need to take time off for a pregnancy-related condition before and after the birth of their child. It requires their employer to hold their job for them while they are out of work, but it does not require the employer to provide pay. If the pregnant worker pays into the State Disability Insurance (SDI) fund, they can apply for State Disability Insurance to get pay while they take job-protected leave under Pregnancy Disability Leave law. Pregnant workers may also be entitled to accommodations on the job (for example, more time to use the bathroom, a chair, less lifting) to enable them to keep working safely through their pregnancy.
Note that Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) run at the same time to provide job protection, but the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave only starts after Pregnancy Disability Leave ends. This means that time off work for pregnancy-related health conditions, if it is four months or less, does not take away from time you can take to bond with your new baby. Once Pregnancy Disability Leave job protection ends (typically 6 or 8 weeks after giving birth), if a worker meets the qualifications for the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), a worker can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected bonding leave.
*The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will not give you additional time off from work, except in rare circumstances where you are caring for a seriously ill family member. If you work in California and are not employed by the federal government, consider skipping this section on FMLA and go straight to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) since California laws are more protective.
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously ill family member including a child, spouse, or parent. FMLA does not require that an employer pay you during your leave.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to California workers who take time off to bond with a new child, care for one’s own serious health condition (excluding pregnancy-related conditions), or care for a seriously ill family member including a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, parent, or parent-in-law. Your employer is not legally required to provide pay during this leave.
As of January 1, 2021, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) expands job-protected leave to employees who work at companies with 5 or more employees. This greatly expands the number of workers who could take leave without fear of job loss or retaliation.
California leave laws are very complex and even many employers and HR departments do not have a comprehensive understanding of how paid leave and job protection laws work together. If your employer unlawfully denies your leave or has a different understanding of the length of leave you are allowed under law, there are many steps you can take.
California Work & Family Coalition member, Legal Aid at Work, has sample letters that you can use when requesting leave. See their website for templates and more information: legalaidatwork.org/wf.
You can also contact their legal helpline to get advice. Legal Aid at Work offers a free Work and Family Helpline (1-800-880-8047 for workers in California), exclusively focused on workers’ pregnancy, parenting, and caregiving rights. Bet Tzedek offers free legal services (1-323-939-0506) for workers in Los Angeles county.
If you think you need to file a complaint, you can also contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) at 1-800-884-1684 or go to the DFEH website at dfeh.ca.gov/complaint process/. You can contact DFEH if you think your rights to Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), pregnancy accommodations, or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) have been denied or your employer treats you worse for taking PDL or CFRA. You can also contact the Department of Labor at 1-866-487-2365 if you have been denied FMLA. Legal nonprofits can offer advice on filing such complaints, if you need help figuring out where to start.
Note:If you are a member of a union, you can often file a grievance if an employer unlawfully denies your right to leave or retaliates against you, even if you don’t have expanded time or benefits in your contract. Most contracts also require employers to abide by state and federal laws.
Can I receive State Disability Insurance (SDI) or Paid Family Leave (PFL) while I’m receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI)?