Emergency Time Off Laws in California

Besides the statutory leave days awarded by an employer to an employee, an employee is entitled to emergency time off to deal with sudden emergencies involving immediate dependents like spouses, children, or parents. The time allowed to deal with the emergency is not fixed because it largely depends on the situation at hand.

An employer may seek to talk with the employee if they deem that the emergency situation is interfering with the employee’s work and productivity. There are exceptions to these arrangements, for instance, if the emergency was known beforehand. Remuneration during this period largely depends on the nature of the contract.


California Law Categories

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles employees to a 12-week unpaid annual leave to take care of seriously ill family members. This act further directs employers to award up to 26 weeks off to take care of a family member seriously ill or incapacitated on military duty.

However, some states create laws that are more flexible to cover a wider set of employees and their family members and such laws overlap with FMLA.

Additionally, California has several other law categories spanning different faculties such as temporary disability insurance, paid family leave, paid sick leave, military leave, laws governing time off for jury duty, voting or to handle domestic violence.


Contentious Areas on California Emergency Time off Laws

It is a general feeling that emergency time off laws in California are rather discriminative and raises questions because of the following enumerated reasons:

  1. Conditions imposed for one to qualify for FMLA leave such as the size of the company, employment period and man-hours are unrealistic since emergencies are unforeseen.
  2. The fact that both parents of a newborn working for the same employer may be entitled to less leave.

iii. Leave taken to take care of seriously ill family members only covers certain family members.

  1. Regarding family member’s on active duty, this scheme is not comprehensive since only certain activities are covered.
  2. Regarding the family member with the injury or illness, the maximum time allowed (26 weeks) is non-renewable annually, unlike the 12-week leave provision.
  3. Reinstatement after an unpaid 12-week leave is subject to the existence of one’s previous position. This exposes one to malicious elimination when on leave. Additionally, if an employer downsizes the company at the time of an employee’s leave, and the employee happens to be among those downsized, they cannot be reinstated.

vii. An occasional requirement by the employer to use accrued vacation days during FMLA leave.

The existence of statutory absence management provisions together with emergency time offs is paramount and will require an in-depth review to comprehensively cater to employee needs.