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Digging deeper into state and federal worker family leave laws

Some might argue that the concept of granting someone time off from their job to deal with a family emergency is simply a matter of common decency and common sense. But a look at the history of California and the United States as a whole reveals that the notion is one that has had to be fought for.

Many readers may know that there are laws on the books today at both the federal and state levels that are intended to guarantee leave rights for workers. But as materials from the U.S. Department of Labor explain, that hasn't always been the case.

Indeed, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act was only made the law of the land in 1993. And more than 20 years later, the fight for employee FMLA rights continues. Workers often have to pursue action with the help of an attorney to ensure they receive the basic protections they're entitled to.

California's Family Rights Act preceded the national law by a number of years and has its own history of legal contention.

Both of the laws provide employees who qualify up to 12 weeks of leave in one 12-month period. The addition of a child to the family through birth or adoption is often the reason to take such a leave, but the laws also allow leaves if an employee needs to care for a family member or for him or herself because of serious health issues.

The leave may be paid or unpaid, depending on your particular circumstances. The two laws don't mean a person is entitled to two separate blocks of time that add up to 12 weeks. Time granted under the laws runs concurrently.

Note, too, that we said that leave applies to those who qualify. Not everyone is eligible to take advantage of the protections offered by FMLA and CFRA. If you aren't sure if you are or not, or if you feel you have been denied benefits you are entitled to, you should consult with an attorney.

Source: Society for Human Resource Management, "How does the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave differ from FMLA leave? Do they run concurrently, or is an employee entitled to both?," accessed Dec. 24, 2014

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