CFRA Leave Application Requires Dotting I’s and Crossing T’s

The California Family Rights Act (Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 12945.1, 12945.2, 19702.3) provides a leave of absence for employees of businesses with 50 or more employees to, among other things, care for a family member who suffers from serious health conditions. There are certain requirements and procedures that employees and employers must follow, and if the procedures are not followed, an employee should not expect to get much support from the courts.

The rules and procedures are:

  • Employer must employ 50 or more employees;
  • Employers must post notices to inform employees of the conditions that must be satisfied to qualify for CFRA leave;
  • Employer may require a 30-day advance notice of the need for CFRA leave;
  • If 30-day notice is not possible, notice should be given as soon as practicable;
  • Employee must sufficient notice to advise employer of the anticipated timing and duration of the leave
  • Employer must respond to leave request within 10 days;
  • Employer may require notice from health care provider;
  • Employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the year preceding leave.

In this case, a delivery driver applied for CFRA leave to care for his mother who was to have surgery in Sweden. The driver then filled-out the company application for leave and later submitted a physician’s note documenting the surgery, but the note was not on letterhead and the employer had concerns about its authenticity. A few days later, the driver did present to the employer appropriate verification from the physician.

Just before he was to leave for Sweden, the driver was told his application for leave was denied because he failed to work the required 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months. The driver’s supervisor explained that if the driver did not report to work as scheduled, he would be fired. The driver went to Sweden despite his supervisor’s admonishment, and was terminated.

The driver sued and the employer won. The driver appealed and argued the employer should be estopped from determining that the driver did not qualify for CFRA leave because the employer did not inform the driver his application was denied until after his mother’s surgery.

This where the court got picky – the court concluded that the employer never misrepresented to the driver his status for leave eligibility. The court further noted there was evidence that the driver said he was going to Sweden whether or not his leave was approved.

The driver then argued that the 10-day period for the employer’s response to a CFRA leave request required the employer to had to approve or deny a leave application within that time. The court rejected this argument by noting that the employer may not have all the required information from the employee during that period because the CFRA regulations give the employee 15 days in which to respond to an employer’s request for medical certification. The court noted that in this case, the employer did respond to the driver’s application for leave within 10 days by requesting medical certification.

The moral of this story is that if you are an employee seeking CFRA leave, make your application as soon as possible and check your hours worked in the preceding 12 months. In this case, the driver had taken off 4-5 weeks a couple of months before his application for leave, so that should have put him on notice there might be an hours-worked deficiency. If you are an employer, be sure to respond to leave requests quickly and unambiguously. Tell the employee exactly what you need for medical certification. Presenting a physician’s note on plain paper and not on letterhead or a prescription pad or something is automatically going to raise eyebrows!

Olofsson v. Mission Linen Supply, 2012 WL 6200336, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (2012).

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