California Leave Laws

April 23rd 2024

Leave has a beneficial impact on the well-being of an individual and, as a result, there are a number of federal and state laws in place to ensure employees receive their entitled time off. This article explores the leave laws in California, including the various categories available to employees.

In California there are two types of leave: mandatory and non-mandatory, with specific guidelines and requirements for each. These may vary according to whether one is working in the public or private sector.

This Article Covers

California Required Leave
California Non-Required Leave

California Required Leave

Employers in California are required by law to provide employees certain types of leave. The types of mandatory leave include:

1. Family and Medical Leave

  • Eligibility: The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provide most employees in California with the right to take unpaid, job-protected leave. FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. The CFRA’s scope includes private employers with 5 or more employees and also applies to California state and local governments as employers. To be eligible for leave, employees must have worked for the employer for at least a year and worked a minimum of 1,250 hours.
  • Duration: Up to 12 weeks per year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: A range of reasons, such as caring for a newborn child, or for an adopted or foster child, or a family member with a serious health condition. It can also be used if an employee has a serious health condition that prevents them from working.

2. Sick Leave

  • Eligibility: Paid Sick Leave (PSL) is a permanent law in California that requires employers to provide paid time off to employees. Employers must provide at least 40 hours or five days off each year to most workers. This includes full-time, part-time and temporary workers. To be eligible, employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 30 days within a year and completed a 90-day employment period before taking leave.
  • Duration: At least 40 hours or five days of sick leave each year. Employers can either front-load sick days or set up an accrual plan. Employees under an accrual plan must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Can be used to recover from physical or mental illness or injury or to seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care. Can also be used to care for a family member who is ill or who needs a medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.

3. Jury Service Leave

  • Eligibility: All employees who have been called to jury duty are entitled to take leave.
  • Duration: The scheduled and expected duration of the jury service.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To fulfill jury service when summoned by the court.
  • Pay: Employers do not have to pay workers for the time taken to serve jury duty.

4. Voting Time Leave

  • Eligibility: All employers must grant time off for employees to vote. The employee must provide notice that they are taking this leave at least three days in advance.
  • Duration: At least 2 hours.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: If an employee requires time to vote in any national, state or local election.

5. Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault Leave

  • Eligibility: If an employee is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, they can request time off to protect themselves and their children. Employers with 25 or more employees must also provide time off for medical examinations or care services related to domestic violence or sexual assault.
  • Duration: Depends on the circumstances of the individual case.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: If an employee is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault and needs time off for recovery, protection, medical examinations etc.

 6. Emergency Response Leave

  • Eligibility: Employers are required to provide unpaid leave to employees to attend emergency duties as a volunteer firefighter, rescue personnel, or peace officer. Employers with 50 or more employees must also provide unpaid leave for employees to acquire training in these occupations.
  • Duration: For the time needed to respond to the emergency. For training purposes, up to 14 days of leave must be provided.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Emergency events where the services of volunteer firefighters, rescue personnel, or peace officers are required. Leave can also be taken for training purposes.

7. Organ and Bone Donation Leave

  • Eligibility: Any employee who wishes to donate bone marrow or an organ is entitled to a leave of absence.
  • Duration: Up to 60 days of leave per year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Leave can be taken for bone marrow or organ donations.
  • Pay: The first 30 days of leave must be paid, and the following 30 days can be unpaid. The employer may also ask the employee to use up to 5 days of their accrued paid time off for bone marrow donation leave and up to 15 days off for organ donation leave.

8. School Leave

  • Eligibility: For employees with school-age children, employers must allow unpaid time off for general school involvement activities.
  • Duration: Up to 40 hours of leave per calendar year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: For general school involvement activities, such as to attend disciplinary meetings or hearings.

9. Military Leave

  • Eligibility: Any active service member of the Armed Forces, members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia or members of the state military reserve must be provided leave and the same conditions of employment upon their return. In addition, companies with 25 or more employees must provide the spouse of a military service member leave while their spouse is on leave from deployment.
  • Duration: For the entire deployment for active service members of the Armed Forces, 17 days of unpaid leave for members of the National Guard or the Naval, 15 days of unpaid leave for members of the state military reserve or 10 days of unpaid leave for the spouse of a military service member.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: When called up for duty with the Armed Forces, National Guard, Naval Militia or the state military reserve. Leave can also be used for spouses of a military service member on leave from deployment.

10. Bereavement Leave

  • Eligibility: Private employers with 5 or more employees are required to provide unpaid bereavement leave when requested by an employee. To be eligible an employee must have been employed for at least 30 days before leave can be taken. Leave is also available for employees who work for the State of California or for local governments.
  • Duration: Up to 5 days.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Following the death of a certain family member including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law.

California Non-Required Leave

In California, employers are not obligated by law to grant employees leave of absence for certain circumstances. Non-mandatory types of leave include:

1. Vacation Time

Employers are not required by law to offer their employees paid vacation time. However, if an employer has promised such benefits in their company policy, they are obligated to compensate their workers for any unused vacation time.

2. Holiday Leave

Employers are not required to grant their employees any paid time off for holidays.

Official state holidays observed in California include:

Official State Holidays in California Day and Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Day Third Monday in January
Presidents’ Day Third Monday in February
Cesar Chavez Day 31 March
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Indigenous Peoples’ Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Day after Thanksgiving Friday after Fourth Thursday
Christmas Day 25 December

If you want to know more about the entitlements of employees in California, you can read our guides on Your rights as a salaried employee in California, and Your rights as an hourly employee in California. You can also learn more about California Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.