Know Your Rights

Knowledge is power! As you navigate caring for yourself and your loved ones while earning a paycheck, a combination of federal, state, and local workplace laws can help ensure you are free from discrimination and have the time and support you need.

 

This state-by-state guide is organized into five tabs based on the situations that may be prompting you to seek information about your legal rights. Many of the laws we address overlap and can be used for different purposes, and are therefore discussed under more than one tab.

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California

Staying healthy at work while you are pregnant is sometimes challenging: you may be dealing with morning sickness, back pain, or doctor’s appointments every few weeks. For women who have suffered a miscarriage, you may need time off for recovery. U.S., California, and local laws can help you stay healthy at work, give you time off when you need it, and protect you from pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy Discrimination

  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act makes it illegal for any employer in the U.S. with 15 or more workers to treat employees unfairly because they are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or have experienced a pregnancy loss. That means:
    • Your boss can’t fire you or cut your hours when they find out that you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant—you have the right to keep working as long as you can still do your job. You also have the right to be free from harassment at work because you are pregnant.
    • If your employer asks you about your pregnancy or plans to have children in a job interview, that may be evidence of pregnancy discrimination.
    • Your employer can’t treat you differently from other workers just because you are pregnant or have had a miscarriage. In 2015, the Supreme Court decided a case where it clarified what this means. The Court said that employers may not put a “significant burden” on pregnant employees. How do you know what’s a significant burden? Start looking around at how your employer treats other non-pregnant employees who have needed an accommodation at work. For example, does your employer have a policy of giving light duty only to those with on-the-job injuries? Or did they have no problem helping out folks with non-pregnancy related disabilities, but sent all the pregnant women out onto unpaid leave? If so, this could be evidence of pregnancy discrimination. It’s best to collect all the evidence you can (policies, employee handbooks or manuals, digging around to find out how others have been treated) and to discuss your particular situation with an attorney.
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also bans pregnancy discrimination, and generally covers workplaces with 5 or more employees. However, it is illegal for an employer of any size to harass you based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Workplace Accommodations

If you need changes at work to stay healthy on the job, the laws below can help. In addition, click the green button to learn how to talk with your boss about your pregnancy and request an accommodation if you need one.

  • Under California’s pregnancy accommodations law, if you work for an employer with 5 or more employees, you are entitled to a “reasonable accommodation” because of your pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition. This means:
    • Your boss can’t just fire you if you ask for a bigger uniform, a stool to sit on, or light duty while you are pregnant—they have to give you what you need to stay healthy at work.
    • You must ask for the advice based on the advice of your healthcare provider.
    • An example of an accommodation explicitly covered by the law includes temporary transfers to a less strenuous or hazardous position.
    • For more information, see here and here.
  • If you are covered under California’s Paid Sick Leave law, you may be able to use your accrued paid time off for medical needs while pregnant, e.g., for a prenatal appointment. For more information on this law, see the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” tab.
  • Under California law, if your workplace has 5 or more employees, your employer has to let you take time off (usually up to 4 months) if your doctor recommends that you leave work because you are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. This is often called pregnancy disability leave (PDL). Your employer has to let you keep your health insurance during this leave, and return you to your job afterwards. For more information, see here.
  •  If you are covered, you may also have the right to certain paid benefits under California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program should you need to leave work because you have a disability related to your pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” section tab for more information or see here.
  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also bans disability discrimination, and covers workplaces with 5 or more employees.
  • If you are not covered by California’s laws (for example, if you work out of state), there are federal laws that may help you. The Americans with Disabilities Act, makes it illegal for employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Some pregnancy-related conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, are considered disabilities under the law. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a pregnancy-related disability.
    • If you have a pregnancy-related disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.
    • Although pregnancy, by itself, is not considered a “disability,” some conditions of pregnancy may be disabilities so check with a lawyer to see whether you have a right to an accommodation at work.
  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you have the right to take time off during pregnancy or after experiencing a miscarriage without losing your job. See the “Time Off For Childbirth and Bonding” section under the next tab for more information and see this guide to your workplace rights around miscarriage.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

The U.S. is one of the only countries in the world with no national law guaranteeing women the right to paid leave for childbirth. However, you may have the right to paid leave and/or unpaid leave during pregnancy, childbirth, and to bond with a new child under California law. You may have additional rights under state and/or local laws. See the “Caring for Your Own Medical Needs” or “Caring for a Loved One” tabs for more information.

Paid Leave

  • If you work in California, you are likely eligible for California’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 8 weeks while you are taking time off to bond with a new child within the first year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.
    • If you are eligible for PFLI benefits, you will receive between 60% and 70% of your average weekly wage, depending on your income, up to a cap.
    • This program does not protect you from being fired while out on leave. You may, however, be protected by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), or California’s pregnancy disability leave (PDL) law. The FMLA and CFRA are discussed in Section 2 below and the PDL is discussed in the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab.
    • Your employer may require that you use up to 2 weeks of earned vacation time, if you have it, before you draw on your PFLI benefits. However, your employer cannot require you to use sick leave before receiving PFLI benefits.
    • If you work in San Francisco and are receiving California Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) benefits to bond with a new child, you may be entitled to supplemental compensation under the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO). Under this law, employers must provide supplemental compensation equal to 100% of your weekly wage, up to a cap.
  • Birth mothers who work in California can also get cash benefits while they are unable to work because of pregnancy and childbirth under California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program.
    • Usually you can receive SDI benefits for up to 4 weeks before your delivery date and up to 6 weeks after giving birth (or 8 weeks if you have a c-section). However, you can get more time if you have medical complications or your doctor certifies that you are unable to work (for example, if you need to go on bed rest).
    • Like with PFLI, the SDI program does not protect your job.
    • You cannot receive SDI and PFLI payments at the same time. However, you can receive SDI payments during a period of disability, and then receive PFL payments to bond with a child after you have recovered from childbirth.

Unpaid, Job-Protected Leave 

The law may protect your job while you are taking leave due to pregnancy, childbirth, or to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children).

  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own health (including pregnancy), to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, or to care for a seriously ill family member. Remember that you only get 12 weeks a year in total—if you take time off before you give birth for your own health needs, you’ll have less time afterward to spend with your baby.
    • Before giving birth, you may use your leave an hour or day at a time—such as by taking a day off per week to go to the doctor—rather than all at once. Your employer must approve, however, if you want to use leave time in smaller chunks to bond with your baby.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you are in the top 10% of highest-paid workers in your company, different rules apply.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time.
    • Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • California has a state law—the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—that is similar to the FMLA. If you are covered, you have the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing your job or your health insurance. You can take this leave after the birth of a child, after adoption or foster care placement, or if you or your family member has a serious health condition (not pregnancy).
    • You are covered by the CFRA if you: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within a certain location; and 2) you have worked with that employer for at least a year; and 3) you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking the leave. These are similar to the requirements for the federal FMLA.
    • Unlike the FMLA, however, you can take CFRA leave to care for a registered domestic partner.
    • Workers may take 12 weeks of CFRA leave per year in addition to up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL), discussed in the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab.
    • For more information about the CFRA, see here.
  • If your boss treats workers who take time off for childbirth differently from workers who take time off for other medical treatments (for example, they allow employees to work part-time while recovering from surgery, but require new moms to either take leave or work a full-time schedule after childbirth), this could be illegal under the national Pregnancy Discrimination Act and/or California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Call A Better Balance if you think you are being treated unfairly.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you return to work as a new parent, you may still need a few extra breaks to pump breastmilk or time off to care for your baby when they’re sick. There are a few laws that can help you get back to work safely and still care for your family.

Returning from Childbirth

Nursing Rights

  • Under California law, your employer must give you reasonable break time to express breast milk. They must also provide a private place near you work area, other than a toilet stall, for you to pump. If your employer has fewer than 50 employees, and can demonstrate that providing you with break time or space would be really difficult or expensive for them, they may not have to provide break time but must still make reasonable efforts to provide you with a lactation space.
  • California’s pregnancy accommodations law may also help if you need a reasonable accommodation to express breast milk at work. See the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab for more information.
  • Rights for breastfeeding workers are strong in California, but national laws may also protect you (for example, if you work outside California):
    • The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) gives some U.S. workers the right to take unpaid breaks at work to pump milk, and requires some employers to find a clean, private place that’s not a bathroom for employees to pump milk. This law only applies to workers and employers who are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)—the law that sets minimum wage and overtime requirements.
  • Under a California law that covers employers with 5 or more employees, it is illegal for your boss to punish or discriminate against you because you are lactating. Lactation discrimination may also be illegal under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which covers employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees.
  • Under California law, you have the right to breastfeed your child in any public or private location, other than someone else’s private home.
  • For more information about your nursing rights, click here.

Caring for Your Family: Family Illness and Caregiver Discrimination

As a new parent, you may face discrimination at work or have problems taking time off when you or your baby is sick. These laws can help you balance your job and caring for your family.

  • If you are covered, California’s Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer in California of any size, you have the right to earn up to 48 hours or 6 days of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 24 hours or 3 days in a year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in certain cities in California, you may have a right to even more paid sick time. Like the state law, sick time in these cities can be used to care for your own or your family’s medical needs. This includes routine care, like an annual check-up. Additionally, like under the state law, workers earn this time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For a side-by-side comparison of the respective eligibility requirements and provisions of these laws, see here.
    • If you work in Berkeley and your employer has 25 or more workers, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 25 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Emeryville and your employer has more than 55 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 55 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice. Paid sick time can also be used to care for your guide dog, signal dog, or service dog or your family member’s or designated partner’s guide dog, signal dog, or service dog.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Los Angeles for an employer of any size, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Oakland and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, legal guardian or ward, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Diego, you may have the right to earn up to 80 hours of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or your child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Francisco and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, legal guardian or ward, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Santa Monica and your employer has 26 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 25 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in California and need time off because you or your baby or other family member has a more serious health issue, you are likely eligible for paid benefits under California’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 8 weeks while you are caring for a seriously ill child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. Starting January 1, 2021, you can also receive PFLI benefits if you need time off to address certain military family needs.
    • If you are eligible for PFLI benefits, you will receive between 60% and 70% of your average weekly wage, depending on your income, up to a cap.
    • This program does not protect you from being fired while out on leave. You may, however, be protected by another law such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information on these laws.
    • Your employer may require that you use up to 2 weeks of earned vacation time, if you have it, before you draw on your PFLI benefits. However, your employer cannot require you to use sick leave before receiving PFLI benefits.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it). You may have similar rights under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). See the “Time Off for Childbirth and Bonding” tab for more information on these laws.
  • Under California law, if you work for an employer who has 25 or more employees, you may be able to take leave to attend school activities. Your boss can’t discriminate against you for taking off up to 40 hours each year (although no more than 8 hours per month) to participate in activities at your child’s school or day care. There are a lot of specifics to this law, so read it carefully.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill.  However, this law does not give relatives of a person with a disability the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act may also ban this kind of discrimination.
  • Some workers in California are protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • Caregiver discrimination is illegal under San Francisco’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance. If you work in San Francisco for an employer with 20 or more employees, your employer cannot discriminate against you because you are a family caregiver.
      • Under this law, you are a caregiver if you provide care to a minor child (including biological, foster, or adopted children) or to a person with a serious health condition with whom you have a familial relationship who relies on you for care. This can include your child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent.
      • The same law may also give you the right to request a flexible or predictable working arrangement, when you need to take care of a child, seriously ill relative, or elder parent. For more information, see here.
    • Diamond Bar and Palo Alto have outlawed discrimination against city employees based on familial status.
    • Please note, it’s possible that additional cities may have passed caregiver discrimination laws. For more information about these laws, see here. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to apply for Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

Taking Time Off Work

  • If you are covered, California’s Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer in California of any size, you have the right to earn up to 48 hours or 6 days of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 24 hours or 3 days in a year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in certain cities in California, you may have a right to even more paid sick time. Like the state law, sick time in these cities can be used to care for your own or your family’s medical needs. This includes routine care, like an annual check-up. Additionally, like under the state law, workers earn this time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For a side-by-side comparison of the respective eligibility requirements and provisions of these laws, see here.
    • If you work in Berkeley and your employer has 25 or more workers, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 25 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Emeryville and your employer has more than 55 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 55 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice. Paid sick time can also be used to care for your guide dog, signal dog, or service dog or your family member’s or designated partner’s guide dog, signal dog, or service dog.
      • Per regulations, sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you are a victim of domestic violence.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Los Angeles for an employer of any size, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Oakland and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, legal guardian or ward, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Diego, you may have the right to earn up to 80 hours of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or your child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Francisco and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, legal guardian or ward, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Santa Monica and your employer has 26 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 25 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you are a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you are unable to work due to your non-occupational illness or disability, you may qualify for paid benefits through California’s Disability Insurance program.
    • You can receive DI for up to 52 weeks for any particular “period of disability.” There is a seven-day unpaid waiting period for all DI benefits.
    • If you are eligible for DI benefits, you will receive between 60% and 70% of your average weekly wage, depending on your income, up to a cap.
    • The DI law does not provide job protection. This means that unless you have the right to job protection under another law, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), your employer does not have to hold your job for you while you are receiving DI benefits.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for your own serious medical needs, including those related to pregnancy and recovery from childbirth. You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
    • For more information about the Family and Medical Leave Act, see here.
  • California has a state law—the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—that is similar to the FMLA. If you are covered, you have the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing your job or your health insurance. You can take this leave after the birth of a child, after adoption or foster care placement, or if you or your family member has a serious health condition (not pregnancy).
    • You are covered by the CFRA if you: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within a certain location, and 2) you have worked with that employer for at least a year, and 3) you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking the leave. These are similar to the requirements for the federal FMLA.
    • Workers may take 12 weeks of CFRA leave per year in addition to up to 4 months of pregnancy disability leave (PDL), discussed in the “Pregnancy/Pregnancy Loss” tab.
    • For more information about the CFRA, see here.
  • If you were hurt while working or became sick as a result of your job, you may also be entitled to paid benefits and other protections through Workers’ Compensation.
  • If you lose your job due to your own medical needs, and are able to continue working, you may still be able to get Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.  

Reasonable Accommodations and Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) bans disability discrimination at workplaces with 5 or more employees. Should your disability require some changes to your position, your boss must provide you with a reasonable accommodation so that you can perform your job, unless it would be very difficult or expensive for them to do so. A reasonable accommodation can include anything from changes to your workspace to modifying your work schedule to restructuring your job. 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers in the U.S. with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities and makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers with disabilities. Disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which can include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. This means:
    • Your boss cannot fire you, refuse to give you a promotion, or harass you because you have a disability.
    • If you have a disability, your boss cannot refuse to give you small changes at work that you need to stay healthy, like breaks to take medication, temporary relief from heavy lifting, or a stool to sit on during your shift. These changes are called “reasonable accommodations” and are available as long as you can still complete the basic duties of your job with those changes. Your boss does not have to give you an accommodation that would be very difficult or expensive, like building a whole new office.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

When you are sick—be it with a bad cold or more serious illness or injury—you may need time off from work to rest and heal. Federal, state, and local laws may give you time off when you need it and protect you from employment discrimination.

Taking Time Off from Work

  • If you are covered, California’s Paid Sick Leave law gives you the right to paid time off, without losing you job, if you need to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; or care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
    • If you work for an employer in California of any size, you have the right to earn up to 48 hours or 6 days of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 24 hours or 3 days in a year.
    • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
    • Under this law, you earn sick time at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work.
    • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in certain cities in California, you may have a right to even more paid sick time. Like the state law, sick time in these cities can be used to care for your own or your family’s medical needs. This includes routine care, like an annual check-up. Additionally, like under the state law, workers earn this time at the rate of 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. For a side-by-side comparison of the respective eligibility requirements and provisions of these laws, see here.
    • If you work in Berkeley and your employer has 25 or more workers, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 25 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Emeryville and your employer has more than 55 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 55 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice. Paid sick time can also be used to care for your guide dog, signal dog, or service dog or your family member’s or designated partner’s guide dog, signal dog, or service dog.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Los Angeles for an employer of any size, you may have the right to earn up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or for any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with you is the equivalent of a family relationship (such as a close friend who is like family, a significant other, etc.).
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Oakland and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, legal guardian or ward, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Diego, you may have the right to earn up to 80 hours of paid sick time per year. However, your employer may limit your use of paid sick time to 40 hours per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • Sick time under this law can be used when your place of work or your child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency.
      • Sick time under this law can be used for “safe time” purposes to address certain needs, including non-medical needs, that may arise if you or your family member is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, or stalking.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in San Francisco and your employer has 10 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has fewer than 10 employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, legal guardian or ward, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, or, if you don’t have a spouse or registered domestic partner, a designated person of your choice.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
    • If you work in Santa Monica and your employer has 26 or more employees, you may have the right to earn up to 72 hours of paid sick time per year. If your employer has 25 or fewer employees, you may have the right to earn up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year.
      • Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
      • For more information about your rights, see here.
  • If you work in California, you are also likely eligible for California’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) program. This program provides payments for up to 8 weeks while you are caring for a seriously ill child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. Starting January 1, 2021, you can also receive PFLI benefits if you need time off to address certain military family needs.
    • If you are eligible for PFLI benefits, you will receive between 60% and 70% of your average weekly wage, depending on your income, up to a cap.
    • This program does not protect you from being fired while out on leave. You may, however, be protected by another law such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), discussed below.
    • Your employer may require that you use up to 2 weeks of earned vacation time, if you have it, before you draw on your PFLI benefits. However, your employer cannot require you to use sick leave before receiving PFLI benefits.
  • If you are covered, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work per year to address your own serious health needs (including pregnancy), bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill or injured family member, or address certain military family needs—without losing your job (or your health insurance, if you have it).
    • Only about half of all private sector workers in the U.S. are covered by the law. You must: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of your worksite; and 2) have worked with your employer for at least 1 year; and 3) have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking leave.
    • If you are covered, you can use the 12 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member. Under the FMLA, covered family members include a worker’s son or daughter under the age of 18 (or an adult child unable to care for him or herself due to a physical or mental disability), a spouse, and a parent.
    • The FMLA defines “son or daughter” to include a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis. For more information about protections the FMLA provides for LGBT families, see here.
    • You may also take the leave on an intermittent basis or may work on a reduced schedule to care for a seriously ill family member.
    • While you are on leave, if you receive health insurance through your employer, you have the right to keep your health insurance benefits.
    • When you return to work, you have the right to return to the same or a very similar job, unless you fall into a narrow exception.
    • If you have accrued paid leave from your employer, you may choose to use that paid time off concurrently with your FMLA time. Your employer can also require you to use your paid leave—including paid vacation, personal, or sick days—while you are taking FMLA leave.
  • California has a state law—the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—that is similar to the FMLA. If you are covered, you have the right to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave without losing your job or your health insurance. You can take this leave after the birth of a child, after adoption or foster care placement, or if you or your family member has a serious health condition (not pregnancy).
    • You are covered by the CFRA if you: 1) work for the government or a company with 50 or more employees within a certain location, and 2) you have worked with that employer for at least a year, and 3) you have worked at least 1,250 hours in the year before taking the leave. These are similar to the requirements for the federal FMLA.
    • Unlike the FMLA, however, you can take CFRA leave to care for a registered domestic partner.
    • For more information about the CFRA, see here.
  • If you lose your job because you have family caregiving responsibilities, you may still be able to apply for Unemployment Insurance. For more information about how to apply, consult your state’s website. You may also want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about your eligibility.

Special Protections for Veterans’ and Military Families

  • If you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and a close family member is, or was, in the Armed Services, you may be entitled to additional protections under the FMLA.
    • The FMLA provides special protections for service-connected injuries or illnesses. If you are the spouse, parent, son, daughter, or next-of-kin of a veteran or a member of the Armed Services, including the National Guard and Reserves, you may be able to take military caregiver leave. You can take up to a total of 26 weeks of unpaid leave a year to take care of your military relative if he or she has a serious injury or illness stemming from his or her military service.
    • In addition to the ordinary protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if you have a parent, child, or spouse on or called to active duty service in a foreign country, you may be eligible for what is called “qualifying exigency” leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to address certain needs arising out of that active duty service. This leave allows you to take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year.
      • This leave is available to address many different types of needs, including:
        • tending to the needs of the children of a service member, such as arranging childcare, attending meetings, or enrolling the child in a new school
        • making legal or financial arrangements for a military member
        • spending time with a servicemember on a short-term rest and recuperation leave
        • arranging care for the parent of a servicemember when the parent is unable to care for himself or herself.
  • If you work in California, you are also likely eligible for California’s Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFLI) program. Starting January 1, 2021, this program will allow you to receive paid benefits if you need time off to address certain military family needs.
  • If you are a military spouse, you may have additional rights to unpaid leave under California law.

Anti-Discrimination Laws

  • Some workers in California are protected from caregiver discrimination.
    • Caregiver discrimination is illegal under San Francisco’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance. If you work in San Francisco for an employer with 20 or more employees, your employer cannot discriminate against you because you are a family caregiver.
      • Under this law, you are a caregiver if you provide care to a minor child (including biological, foster, or adopted children) or to a person with a serious health condition with whom you have a familial relationship who relies on you for care. This can include your child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandparent.
      • The same law may also give you the right to request a flexible or predictable working arrangement, when you need to take care of a child, seriously ill relative, or elder parent. For more information, see here.
    • Diamond Bar and Palo Alto have outlawed discrimination against city employees based on familial status.
    • Please note, it’s possible that additional cities may have passed caregiver discrimination laws. For more information about these laws, see here. Note, however, that your city may have protections not listed in this chart. You may want to consult with an attorney if you have questions about rights in your city.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also bans unfair treatment of workers based on their relationship with a person with a disability. For example, your boss can’t cut your hours because they think you can’t work as hard because you have a child with asthma. Or your boss cannot assume that you will cost more on the company’s health insurance plan because your family member is seriously ill. However, this law does not give relatives of a person with a disability the right to accommodations, such as a schedule change, to help them provide care. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act may also ban this kind of discrimination.

Please note that each of these laws often covers certain categories of employees, but may not cover all types of employees. For example, special rules often apply to government employees. Additionally, different laws may have different standards to determine which health needs qualify for coverage. And, in many cases, more than one law may apply to your situation. If you have a question about whether you are covered under any of the laws mentioned, contact A Better Balance at 1-833-NEED-ABB.

 

© A Better Balance

Please note that this state-by-state guide is not intended to provide an exhaustive overview of any one law described. It is possible that other provisions may apply to your specific circumstances or category of employment.

Note also that the information contained in this guide does not constitute legal advice. It is always advisable to consult with an attorney about your individual circumstances if you have questions or think your rights as a worker have been violated.

If you have additional questions about your rights, you can contact our free, confidential legal helpline.

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