FAQs about the Paid Family Leave Benefit Extension in CaliforniaHaving a child is a joyous time but it can also raise a lot of logistical questions that can cause some anxiety. Your simple life is suddenly going to revolve around doctors’ appointments, baby-proofing your home, and sleeping, eating, and showering around your newborn’s schedule. You have not even given birth yet and you are already trying to figure out how you are going to manage everything.

Then there is the matter of your job. You need the income with a new child to care for, but you also need to spend those invaluable first months bonding and getting your parental bearings. A new employment law is on the books that says eligible employees are now entitled to 8 weeks of Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits.

Who qualifies for Paid Family Leave benefits in Southern California?

To be eligible for PFL you must first meet either of the following:

  1. Be employed by a public or private company in a full-time or part-time capacity, during which you paid into the State Disability Insurance program through mandatory payroll deductions in the last 18 months.
  2. Have contributed to the Disability Insurance Elective Coverage Program under a self-employed status within the last 18 months; and be
    1. A mother, father, adoptive, or Foster parent whose income has been reduced or eliminated by taking time off work to bond with a new child.
    2. An individual whose income has been reduced or eliminated by taking time off work to become a caretaker for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner).

While employees do receive income when they take time off under the PFL, typically payments will be an amount equal to 55% of their regular paycheck.

What are other eligibility requirements for PFL?

To qualify for benefits, you must also:

  • Be employed or actively applying for jobs at the time your PFL
  • Have earnings of at least $300.
  • Complete and submit your claim form between the first and 41st day of your family leave to avoid losing benefits.
  • Provide a medical certificate on your claim form for the seriously ill family member that has been completed by his/her physician or nurse practitioner.

Can I qualify for benefits if I am not a U.S. citizen?

Provided that you have a social security number that can be used to determine your earnings reported by your employer, your immigration or citizenship status will not disqualify you from receiving benefits if you would otherwise be approved.

What is the difference between FMLA and paid family leave?

Both the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which is federal law, and California’s PFL provide employees with time off from work for specific circumstances but with slightly different benefits.

Under the FMLA:

  • Every employee working for a covered employer is entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with job protection to care for a serious medical illness of self, spouse, child, or parent, to care for a newborn, or other family emergency; or up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill or injured service member.
  • An employee who exercises their rights under the FMLA is also entitled to retain his/her same group coverage insurance plan.
  • There is no financial contribution for employees to make to have a right to the benefit.
  • Employees have the right to return to their same or an equivalent role with their employer when their leave terminates.

Under California’s PFL:

  • Employees must meet specific criteria to qualify.
  • Payments are funded 100% by employees.
  • PFL must be applied for and is not guaranteed like the FMLA.

Can my employer terminate me before or during my family leave?

You can be fired before or during your leave, however the legality of termination will hinge on the reason for the action. State and federal law ban employment terminations based on discriminatory grounds, such as being pregnant or taking leave for legitimate pregnancy-related reasons. The key is being able to prove the reason you were fired falls under a discriminatory practice, which can be a very complex and fact-driven analysis.

You should be able to enjoy your time with your new baby or be able to focus on providing care for your sick family member without added financial strain. The new Paid Family Leave law allows those with dual obligations to employers and loved ones to hit the pause button so they can be there for important moments they can never get back.

If you qualify but have been denied your PFL benefits, the dedicated Los Angeles employment law attorneys at McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP can fight to protect your rights under the law. Schedule your free case evaluation by calling 310-706-2751, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page. Because of COVID issues, all reviews are done remotely. Also, every case is very fact specific, as is yours. Please do NOT consider this legal advice. This is the first step to getting legal advice.