Employee Leave Rights in California

Guide to Family Leave, Medical Leave, Sick Leave, and Bereavement Leave for Employees in California

Federal law in the United States does not provide much protection for employees when they need to take a leave of absence from their job, which is mostly governed by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). But California has various programs which allow employees either paid or unpaid leave for when they get sick or need to take care of sick family members, or otherwise need to undergo a medical procedure, or for taking time for a new child, or even to mourn the death of a loved one.

This is part of our Guide to the Law for Employees in California. Check out that page for much more about employee rights and obligations.

If I get sick, do I get paid time off from work? 

If you have worked for an employer for at least 90 days, then you may qualify to be able take time off to care for yourself or family members, and still get paid for it.

You can take paid sick leave for yourself or a family member for the following purposes:

  • preventive care or diagnosis, including annual physicals or flu shots
  • care or treatment of an existing health condition, or
  • for specified purposes if you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking

“Family member” includes the employee’s parent, child, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or designated person.

See details about paid sick leave here.1Government Code Sections 12945.2, 12945.6.

Do I get paid time off to take care of a family member?

You may qualify for paid family leave, which provides up to 6 weeks of compensation when you have a wage loss when taking time off work to care for a seriously ill family member.

A serious illness or health condition means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, or at home. This includes:

  • when a family member experiences a period of incapacity, such as an inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities
  • any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care
  • continuing treatment by a physician or other health care practitioner

Some examples of conditions that do not count as a serious illness or health condition, unless complications arise: cosmetic treatments, the common cold, influenza, earaches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, and headaches other than migraines.

Do I have a right to maternity leave if I am pregnant?

You may have the right to take up to 7 months off unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting, under both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). You may also qualify for paid family leave, which provides up to 6 weeks of compensation when you have a wage loss when taking time off work to care for and bond with a new child. This applies to fathers as well as mothers.

Are employees allowed to take time off work to go to a funeral or otherwise mourn a loved one?

Under a new bereavement leave law, Assembly Bill 1949, California employers with five or more workers must allow employees up to 5 days of unpaid, job-protected leave upon the death of a close family member. This may include a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law.

Employers may require documentation of the death, such as a death certificate, a published obituary or verification from a funeral home.

Further Resources

See our full Guide to the Law for Employees.

Find an employment lawyer.


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