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Qualifying for medical leave from your job

Whether it happens to you or a close family member, a sudden medical emergency can turn your world upside down. It can force you to stop working for weeks or months, either as the patient or the primary caretaker. At the same time, you should not have to quit your job or risk getting fired because of a family emergency.

That is what makes medical leave from their job such a vital right for working people in California. Knowing that your job will be waiting for you once the medical situation passes can be a huge relief.

Your rights as a California worker

Both state and federal laws govern pregnancy and medical leave, including the federal Family and Medical Leave ACT (FMLA) and California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL). In many ways, California law goes well beyond federal protections for workers who need to take medical leave. As the U.S. Department of Labor explains on its website, you are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. This can be used for the birth, adoption or fostering of a child; caring for a parent, minor child or dependent adult child, our spouse; or for your own health condition.

To qualify, you must work for a private company with at least 50 employees or a government agency, and have worked there full-time for at 12 months. The health condition involved must involve inpatient care at a hospital, nursing home or hospice, or continuing medical treatment of the patient’s chronic incapacity.

Paid vs. unpaid leave

Paid leave is an option for all employees in California, no matter how large the company their work for is. However, employers granting paid medical leave are not required to save your job for you. Unpaid leave guarantees your job back, if you meet the requirements in the previous paragraph.