By Jennifer Jacobus, PHRca, SDEA Director of HR Services
Let’s face it, there are a lot of emotions, thoughts and concerns that run through our brains simultaneously when we hear the words, “I need a leave of absence”, and rightfully so, especially in California. A recent search showed that in the state of California, there are approximately 17 different leaves that an employer could be required to comply with. If you’re scratching your head reading that, wondering if you are in compliance, you are not alone. Most employers are aware of disability related leaves, sick leave, family leave and pregnancy leave because they are most common, but other leaves may include leave for volunteer firefighters or emergency personnel, leave for an employee if their child has been suspended from school and even leave for an employee who may be a victim of domestic violence.
While some mandatory leaves apply to all employers, regardless of size, most leaves apply based on the company’s size. This may seem like a simple determinator, but how a company counts the number of employees and over what period of time can vary. In addition, some leaves are available to an employee from start of hire while others require that an employee work for a certain number of hours, months, or both.
Many of these leaves can run concurrently. For example, for an employer with 50 or more employees who has an employee who was injured at work and eligible for worker’s compensation, both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) would run concurrently. In this case, it’s the FMLA and CFRA that provides job protection and benefit continuation for up to 12 weeks and the workers’ compensation that provides the employee with partial wage replacement. In fact, with very limited exceptions, most leaves (but not all) are without pay; it is up to the employee to file for state benefits such as state disability insurance or paid family leave.
There are strict rules as to when an employee can be required to use their vacation and/or sick while taking an otherwise unpaid leave; complicated paperwork requirements under FMLA; and very strict rules and notices that are mandatory when employees do not pay their portion of their medical premiums in a timely manner.
If that is not enough, employers can find themselves having difficult and confusing conversations with employees who have chosen to do their own research on what they believe to be their rights and what they feel they are entitled to and are armed with incorrect information.
Moral of the story? Do your research, train managers and supervisors who have to handle leaves of absences, even on a surface level, and never guess! Call SDEA, we are here with you. In addition to the unlimited consultation, we can take the burden of administering your leave of absence from you. Call us at 858-505-0024 to find out how we can help.