[COLUMN] California employees’ right to medical leave  

Interfering with or denying right is unlawful

  1. I HAVE worked full time with my LA-based employer as an administrative assistant for  more than 5 years. The company employs more than 50 employees. I have been sick on and off  due to some respiratory issues. Initially I was absent for one and a half weeks in September due to this condition for which I saw my physician who prescribed some medications. I then  returned to work, but I got ill again in mid-November. For this relapse, I went back to see my  doctor who gave me another set of medications.  

 I am currently resting at home and have been unable to work for a couple of weeks. I  have not done a medical leave from work but I wanted to see if I can get one because my doctor  stated that it will be beneficial for my health. I am concerned that I will be terminated for  absenteeism if I do so since I have been out for many weeks.. Do I have the right to be  concerned?  

A: Under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), employers with 5 or  more employees must allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of medical  leave without fear of losing their jobs. You are eligible for CFRA leave if you worked  for your employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1, 250 hours within the  past 12 months before the medical leave.

Based on your information, it appears that you are eligible to file a CFRA  medical leave. Note, however, that you must be able to prove that have a serious  health condition. “Serious health condition” means an illness, injury, impairment, or  physical or mental condition that involves either of the following:

  1. a) Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility.  b) Continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.

Under the Regulations implementing CFRA, serious health condition can exist  even without hospital in patient care. This condition is met if an employe is not able  to work for at least 3 consecutive days, and which also involves treatment two or  more times by a health care provider or treatment by a health care provider on at least  one occasion which results in a regiment of continuing treatment under that  provider’s supervision.

The employer has the right to require a medical certification to prove your  serious health condition. An employee may be required to provide it within a period  no less than 15 days unless it is impracticable for the employee to do so. Be diligent in  obtaining this certification and provide it as prompt as possible.

To avoid any misunderstanding with your employer down the line, it is always  advisable to send your messages in writing by emails, letters, or text. As with any rule  on communications, it is always advisable to be respectful, instead of sounding  entitled in you requests to HR or to any company’s representative. Note this request  may be reviewed or evaluated in the future.

Under CFRA, your right as an employee for medical leave is deemed a  protected activity. Hence, the law states that it shall be an unlawful employment  practice for any employer to engage in the following:

  1. a) to refuse to grant this request for medical leave by any eligible employee like  you.;
  2. b) to discharge, fine, suspend, expel, or discriminate against you because of  your exercise of the right to medical leave;
  3. c) to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise  the right

If employees are terminated, discriminated, or otherwise disciplined as a result  of exercising their right to medical leave, they are better off consulting with an  experienced employment attorney to know their rights. Attorneys who represent  employees generally provide a confidential and no cost consultation that employees  can avail of.

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential  and at no cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more  than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees  and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal,  selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine for 11 years, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.] 

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