The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that entitles certain employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year to care for themselves or a family member with a serious health condition. This law can be a lifesaver for employees who need time off to care for a loved one, bond with a new child, or recover from a serious health condition.

Ley de Derechos de la Familia de California (2023)
California Family Rights Act (2023)


First, let’s talk about the businesses to which the CFRA applies. The law applies to private employers with 5 or more employees. Before January 2022, CFRA only applied to companies that employed 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the workplace. Employers with fewer than 5 employees are not subject to the CFRA. 

Employers with 5 or more employees must also follow California’s Pregnancy and Disability Leave Law (PDLL) which allows up to 4 months of unpaid leave for pregnancy disability or bonding with a new child. This will be discussed in another article.


Next, we will discuss the reasons why an employee may take CFRA leave. An employee may take CFRA leave for the following reasons:

  • To bond with a newborn child or a child that was placed with the employee for adoption or foster care.
  • To care for a child, spouse, designated person, or parent with a serious illness.
  • To recover from a serious health condition that prevents you from performing the essential functions of your job.

Pregnancy is not considered a serious health condition under CFRA. However, medical conditions that are caused by a pregnancy would quality as a serious medical condition under CFRA.

It is also worth noting that CFRA leave can be taken intermittently. This means that an employee can take the leave in small increments, such as a few hours or days at a time, rather than taking the entire 12 weeks at once. This can be beneficial for employees who need to care for a family member with a serious health condition, but still need to work to support themselves.

For example, an employee may need leave to care for a child with a serious health problem, but continue to work a few hours a week to maintain his or her income. Intermittent leave may be requested as long as the company agrees and the employee’s absence does not unduly disrupt the company’s activities.

Finally, employees may take CFRA leave to care for a “designated person.” The law defines a “designated person” as someone who is related by blood to the employee or a person who has a relationship with the employee that is like a family relationship. You can choose to identify your “designated person” at the time you request CFRA leave. However, an employer can limit an employee to select one “designated person” during a 12-month period.


No! CFRA and FMLA are different. CFRA is a state law and FMLA is a federal law. There are a few important differences between these laws. First, FMLA only applies to businesses with 50 or more employees. Unlike CFRA, just being pregnant qualifies you a person for FMLA leave. Finally, the employer can require an employee to provide more medical documentation to support a FMLA leave request. 

If you work for an employer for 50 or more employees, then you can take both CFRA and FMLA leave. For example, a woman is pregnant, but she does not have any medical issues or conditions related to the pregnancy. In this case, the employee might want to take FMLA leave. 

Alternatively, an employee might choose to designate an aunt with a serious medical condition as a designated person and take CFRA leave. The aunt is not a family member under the FMLA so the medical leave does not count against the FMLA leave entitlement. If the employer’s child suffers a a serious medical condition, the employee may be able to apply for additional medical leave under the FMLA.  


Finally, let’s discuss how an employee may apply for CFRA leave. An employee must submit his or her CFRA leave request in writing to his or her employer, and include the reason for the leave, the expected start and end date of the leave, and any other pertinent information.

The employer may require you to provide a document from your medical provider that merely states you suffer from a serious medical condition. However, your employer cannot require you to provide specific medical information without your permission. The document should also state when the serious medical condition started and the estimated length of the condition. 

It is important to note that while CFRA provides unpaid leave, employees may use any accrued paid time off, such as vacation days or sick days, to cover part or all of their CFRA leave. In addition, during CFRA leave, the employee’s health insurance must be maintained by the employer, as well as the employee’s right to return to the same or equivalent position.

Remember that in California, the employer is responsible for notifying the employee of their rights under the CFRA and FMLA. If you make a written request for either leave, your employer must provide inform you in writing that your leave is approved or explain why it is being denied. If your request is approved, the employer must provide you documents explaining your rights under CFRA or FMLA.


In conclusion, the California Family Rights Act is a state law that entitles qualified employees up to 12 weeks without pay. The employee is entitled to return to their same or similar job after their CFRA leave ends. However, if the company closes down then you generally, you are not entitled to return to your same or similar job. 

Additionally, you are generally not entitled to your same or similar job when you return from CFRA leave if the company eliminates your job due to layoffs. 

If either of these situations happen to you, then contact an attorney to confirm your rights have not been violated.

The CFRA provides important protections for employees who need to take time off to care for themselves or a family member with a serious health condition. It is always a good idea to talk to your HR department or consult with an attorney if you have any questions or concerns about your rights under the CFRA. 

Workers Compensation lawyer Roger Haag
About The Author

Roger Haag is an attorney who specializes in consumer, labor, and employment law, primarily representing employees. Mr. Haag has extensive experience in various legal proceedings, including arbitration hearings, administrative hearings, bench and jury trials, and has even presented arguments before the California Courts of Appeal. Additionally, Mr. Haag served in the United States Navy and also has professional experience with the Department of the Navy’s Civilian Acquisition Workforce and Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel in Washington D.C.


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