Often, employees will show up to work sick because they fear the repercussions they may face when calling in sick to work. This may be because they've had problems calling off sick with their employer in the past, or perhaps they just aren't familiar with their rights as an employee.
Some employers may try to terminate an employee if they call off sick, are injured, or need time off to care for an ill loved one. In California, a state known for its progressive stance on labor laws, the rights of employees are safeguarded through various laws.
This article will discuss your rights as an employee in California. We will explore the laws that protect you from being fired or suffering repercussions for calling in sick to work, discuss certain instances that could lawfully lead to termination, and what to do if your employer has fired you for taking sick leave.
Understanding California Sick Leave Laws
California has been a trailblazer in employee rights, and the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act of 2014 solidified the state's commitment to providing paid sick leave for workers. Under this law, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, with a minimum of three days or 24 hours per year. Certain cities or counties require more.
Employers are not only required to provide this benefit but are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise their right to sick leave. Retaliation may take various forms, including termination, demotion, or any adverse action against an employee for utilizing their accrued sick leave.
However, employees must follow proper notification procedures when taking sick leave. This often involves timely communication with the employer, providing the necessary documentation, and complying with company-specific policies.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) further extend protections for employees facing serious health conditions, allowing them to take unpaid leave without fearing losing their jobs. These laws are designed to ensure that employees can prioritize their health without compromising job security.
CFRA is a state law that provides eligible employees up to twelve weeks of leave (typically unpaid) during a 12-month period. It applies to specific medical or family situations, including the following:
- Birth of a child
- Adoption or foster care placement
- Caring for a family member with a serious medical condition
- The employee's own serious medical condition (excludes pregnancy)
- A qualifying military emergency
Covered family members include:
- Spouse or domestic partner
- Children and step-children
- Parents and in-laws
- Any other person that the employee has a family relationship with
To be eligible for CFRA, employees must work for an employer with five or more employees or a state governmental agency. They must also have worked for their employer for at least twelve months before starting their medical leave.
FMLA is a federal law requiring employers to provide up to twelve weeks of (unpaid) leave over a 12-month period for certain medical and family situations, which can include:
- Birth of a child and the care of the child within a year of their birth
- Adoption or foster care placement and the care for the newly placed child within a year of placement
- Caring for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious medical condition
- The employee's own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job duties
- Qualifying military emergencies of the employee's spouse, child, or parent who is on “covered active duty”
Employees are also covered to care for a seriously injured service member. This leave is up to twenty-six weeks during a 12-month period. Covered family members include the employee's spouse, child, or next of kin.
FMLA is available to employees whose employer has 50 or more employees in the current or previous year or those who work for a public agency, including schools, regardless of the number of employees. Employees must also have worked for their employer for at least a year and worked at least 1,250 hours in the past twelve months.
Potential Grounds for Termination
California law protects employees from termination solely for taking sick leave. However, under certain circumstances, an employer can legally terminate an employee for sick leave-related reasons. For example, if an employee consistently abuses sick leave policies or fails to adhere to the company's notification procedures, an employer may have valid reasons for disciplinary action, including termination.
Moreover, if an employee's extended absence creates undue hardship for the employer, it could be considered a legitimate reason for termination. However, proving undue hardship requires careful documentation of the specific challenges faced by the employer due to the employee's absence.
Were You Fired for Taking Sick Leave? Advantage Advocates Can Help!
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated for taking sick leave in California, there are legal avenues you can pursue. If successful, remedies can include reinstatement, back pay, and compensation for any other losses incurred due to the unlawful termination.
At Advantage Advocates, we give California employees an advantage in employment disputes. When fighting a wrongful termination claim, you need a strong legal advocate who can enforce your rights. Regardless of why your employer isn't following the law, you shouldn't have to pay the price.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation.