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Posted on April 12, 2019 | FMLA
Virtually every employer offers some type of discretionary time off policy. Some employers allow employees to accrue paid vacation days, sick days, personal days, and paid time off. Employees have the right to use discretionary paid leave as they see fit in accordance with employer policies. For example, an employer may allow you to take a paid sick day as long as you see a doctor and obtain a note confirming your illness. However, other situations may require time off that fall outside the scope of typical discretionary leave programs.
California has some of the most generous laws when it comes to time off and paid leave for employees of California businesses. California law allows employees to take time off for vacation, sick days, attending children’s school functions, pregnancy, domestic violence leave, and various other reasons. However, the state must also adhere to federal rules for employee time off, particularly when it comes to medical leave.
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to address family emergencies, medical emergencies, care for a newborn child, or to undergo necessary medical treatment. This allowance extends to 26 weeks for employees who need to care for a spouse or other family member who suffered an injury or contracted a serious illness while serving in the military.
California also has a state-level California Family Rights Act (CFRA), requiring employers with at least 50 employees to take up to 12 weeks off per year to recover from serious health problems, care for a newborn child, or care for a sick family member. California also requires all employers to allow paid sick leave for their employees. Once an employee works for an employer for 30 days, the employee qualifies to take this type of leave if necessary. Employees accrue one paid hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work on the clock.
If an employee requests time off for a reason covered by FMLA or the CFRA, the employer may not legally deny the request. All employers in California must abide by all FMLA and CFRA regulations without exception. However, an employer has every right to deny an employee’s request to use accrued vacation time or paid time off, but the employer must usually provide some kind of reasonable explanation.
Imagine an employee requests a week of paid time off in advance in accordance with company policy, but the week before his or her vacation is scheduled to start a workplace emergency occurs. The employee’s supervisor needs the employee to handle the issue and therefore denies the vacation request. This is perfectly legal albeit likely frustrating and disappointing for the employee.
Some employees may feel tempted to use sick days for reasons other than addressing injuries and illnesses, but this is unwise and may even lead to disciplinary action from the employer. Employees who decide to use discretionary time off programs should strive to do so in accordance with company policies. An employer typically cannot deny a sick day request if the employee has a legitimate medical issue.
Ultimately, an employer should never interfere with an employee’s need for medical treatment or a legitimate time off request under the provisions of the FMLA or CFRA. In doing so the employer could face fines or other penalties. However, an employer has the right to deny a vacation or personal day off request, but they must usually provide a reasonable explanation for such a denial. If you recently encountered problems while trying to request time off from work, contact a Los Angeles employment attorney to determine if the refusal was legal.