the Local Lawyers Directory

Everything You Should Know About California Maternity Leave

By Jul 20, 2016 Los Angeles

Are you planning on expanding your family by having a baby, taking in a foster child or adoption? If you live in the state of California, it’s important that you understand what options are available to you once you welcome a new member of the family into your home. Here’s everything you need to know about California’s maternity leave:

What is FMLA and CFRA?

The Family Medical Leave Act allows employees to take unpaid leave when they need to attend to medical or family issues, including bonding with a newborn baby, newly adopted or foster child. Although the leave is unpaid, your employer has to protect your job while you are on leave, so you do not have to fear losing your main source of income.

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is the state of California’s version of FMLA. The two are very similar, although CFRA offers the family leave rights to same-sex domestic partners and does not allow leave for pregnancy-related conditions.

Not every employee qualifies to take FMLA or CFRA. In order to request time off under either of these laws, you must meet every one of these conditions:

  • You have worked with your employer for a period of at least one year on a temporary, part-time or full-time basis.
  • You have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours during the last year before your requested leave.
  • Your employer has a staff of at least 50 people within a 75 mile radius of the worksite.

Parents are allowed to take FMLA/CFRA leave to bond with newborn babies until age 1, or to spend time with a newly adopted or foster child up to age 18 who has just been placed in your home.


What is PFL?

Paid Family Leave was established in California in 2002 as a part of the State Disability Insurance program. This law has turned California into one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to providing working pregnant women with rights.

Under PFL, new parents are entitled to up to six weeks of partial pay (55% of your weekly wage) to bond with your new child. To determine how much you will make per week, use this Weekly Benefits Chart. The six weeks do not have to be taken all at once, so moms can choose to break up the time as they please, as long as it is taken within one year of the birth or placement into your home of your child.

Employers have the right to ask you to use up your vacation or sick time before you start receiving PFL benefits. However, that may not be a bad thing. There is a week long waiting period before your PFL benefits begin, so using your vacation or sick time during this period will ensure that you are paid the entire time you are bonding with your new child.


How can moms qualify for PFL?

To qualify for this paid leave, you must meet the following conditions:

  • You have to live in California.
  • You must have contributed to the State Disability Insurance (this is usually automatically deducted from your paycheck).
  • If you are requesting the paid leave to bond with a newborn, foster child or adopted child, you will need to take it within one year of birth or placement in your home.

Unlike FMLA and CFRA, moms do not have to worry about meeting a minimum number of hours that they have worked for an employer in order to qualify for PFL. As long as you are contributing to the State Disability Insurance with your paychecks, you qualify for PFL.


Why should I take FMLA/CFRA and PFL together?

Although PFL does provide compensation for your time off, it does not protect your job while you’re on leave. It is suggested that new moms take PFL and either FMLA or CFRA at the same time. That way, your job will be protected under FMLA or CFRA, and you will receive partial income through PFL.

Employers are not required to provide new moms with health benefits while they are out on PFL, but they are required to continue your benefits while you are out on either FMLA or CFRA. This is another reason why it’s recommended that you take the two types of leaves at the same time.


What if pregnancy or childbirth disables me?

Some women unfortunately experience complications during pregnancy and/or childbirth that leaves them disabled and unable to return to work quickly. In this situation, women may be able to take a pregnancy-related disability leave, as long as they meet the following conditions:

  • You must be a California resident.
  • You must have contributed to the State Disability Insurance (this is usually automatically deducted from your paycheck).
  • You have to be under a doctor’s care for the first 8 days of your disability and unable to perform your job due to the disability.
  • You cannot receive PFL at the same time that you receive disability leave.

The compensation that you receive under a disability leave is calculated the same way that PFL compensation is determined. However, a woman who takes a pregnancy or childbirth-related disability leave can receive benefits for up to a year, whereas PFL only lasts six weeks.


How can I apply for these maternity leaves?

If you want to apply for FMLA/CFRA, you have to talk to your employer. You must give at least 30 days notice to your employer when asking for time off for maternity leave. The employer is allowed (but not required) to ask you for medical documentation from your doctor and periodic reports from you about your expected return once you have gone on leave.

Unlike FLMA and CFRA, your employer will not be the one to approve your PFL or disability leave. Both of these leaves are approved by the State of California’s Employment Development Department. You can apply for pregnancy or childbirth-related disability or PFL through an online form.


Author Bio: Cortney Shegerian is an attorney with Los Angeles based Shegerian & Associates. Shegerian’s practice areas of expertise include discrimination, harassment, whistle blower retaliation and wrongful termination, among others.  Her work includes all aspects of case management, with a particular emphasis on mediation, trial preparation and jury trial litigation.