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How Long Can You Take a Leave of Absence from Work in California

A leave of absence is more than just time off. It is a significant benefit and legally protected period, allowing employees to take leave from work with confidence and peace of mind. But how long can you take a leave of absence from work in California? And what are your rights when you do? In the Golden State, how much time you can take and your legal rights depend on numerous factors, including the reason for your departure, the city you live in, and applicable laws.

Keep reading to learn more about California leave laws, permissible time off, and how these laws empower California’s workforce to take leave without fearing losing their jobs.

What Is a Leave of Absence?

A leave of absence is an authorized period off from work an employer grants an employee. Employees can take leaves of absence for medical reasons, family emergencies, military service, personal development, or other qualifying circumstances. California’s laws governing leaves of absence are designed to protect employees and provide them with necessary time off for personal or family-related issues without jeopardizing their job security or benefits.

What Are Key California Leave of Absence Laws?

California has some of the country’s most generous leave of absence laws, making it a leader in employee rights. These laws form a robust safety net, allowing employees to step away from work to address critical personal and family matters— from personal health struggles to significant family commitments—without fearing job loss.

Some of California’s key leave of absence laws include:

  • California Labor Code 233—under this code, employers must allow employees to use their accrued leave entitlement each calendar year;
  • California Labor Code 230.1—this section provides leave for employees affected by domestic violence;
  • California Labor Codes 1025-1028—these codes guarantee leave for employees undergoing drug and alcohol rehabilitation;
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—this act parallels the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), allowing eligible employees to take unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons without worrying about losing their jobs;
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)—PDL allows employees to take up to four months off for pregnancy disability or to bond with a new child (via birth, adoption, or foster care placement) even if an employer has a policy or practice that provides less than four months of leave for other similarly situated, temporarily disabled employees; and
  • New Parent Leave Act (NPLA)—the NPLA specifically targets parents and grants time off for employees welcoming a new child, whether through birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

With these and other laws in place, Californians can rest assured that their employment and, in some cases, pay will be preserved, whether they’re recovering from a personal health condition, caring for a loved one, welcoming a new family member, attending to civic duties, or seeking rehabilitation.

How Long Can You Take a Leave of Absence from Work?

The amount of time California employees can take off depends on the reason and applicable laws. It’s also important to note that when state and federal laws apply, the employee benefits from the more protective law.

Under CFRA, FMLA, and NPLA, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months for qualifying reasons. Employees taking PDL may extend that 12-week limit, taking up to 4 months of leave per pregnancy.

CFRA and FMLA also provide time off for illness. At the same time, California’s Paid Sick Leave (PSL) law dictates that starting January 1, 2024, most employers must give full-time, part-time, and temporary workers meeting specific qualifications paid time off each year. This paid leave of absence allows qualified employees to take up to 5 days or 40 hours per year of paid sick leave for illness, medical, or preventative care or to care for others.

Additional job-protected time off includes leave for domestic violence, military duty, jury duty, and voting, each varying in duration. Moreover, certain cities, such as San Francisco, have local ordinances that provide additional leave benefits to employees within their district.

These are just a few examples of leave durations employees are entitled to under California law. Remember that the amount of leave you can take off will vary depending on the specific details of your situation. Consulting with a skilled employment lawyer is crucial since leave time and policies fluctuate depending on applicable laws and your reason for leaving. An experienced lawyer at Lawyers for Justice, PC can help you understand how much time off you’re entitled to, your rights and responsibilities during your leave’s duration, and any pay you can recover. They can also help you communicate with your employer to ensure compliance with applicable laws and company policies.

Can My Employer Fire Me for Taking Leave?

It is illegal for an employer to fire, discriminate, or retaliate against an employee for taking leave protected by law. Moreover, both CFRA and FMLA explicitly prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their right to take leave for qualifying reasons. If your employer does fire you for taking leave protected by state or federal laws, you may have the right to reinstatement and compensation. An advocate at Lawyers for Justice, PC, can review your claim and help you determine your best course of action.

Call Lawyers for Justice, PC Today for Guidance on Your Leave of Absence

At Lawyers for Justice, PC, our experienced attorneys understand leave of absence laws and are dedicated to protecting your rights. Many of our lawyers have been awarded Lawyers of Distinction, Super Lawyers, Super Lawyers Rising Stars, and Super Lawyers Up and Coming by esteemed organizations. If you’re facing challenges related to taking a leave of absence, whether understanding your rights, negotiating with your employer, or seeking legal recourse for wrongful termination, our skilled advocates are here to help.

Don’t let uncertainty about your leave of absence jeopardize your job or well-being. Call Lawyers for Justice, PC, today to schedule a consultation and get the guidance and advocacy you deserve. Your rights matter, and we’re here to fight for them.


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