FMLA and CFRA Notice Requirements

One common issue with regard to leaves of absence between an employment and an employee arises when the employee is absent due to being sick or other health-related reason. The employer may try to avoid it’s obligations under FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) or CFRA (California Family Rights Act) by claiming that the employee’s absence while being sick was unexcused and thus unprotected under the law, if the employee didn’t specifically request FMLA / CFRA.

This argument is without merit, however, according to California courts, which repeatedly held that an employee doesn’t have to use “magic words” such as FMLA and CFRA to be eligible for a qualified leave of absence. It is generally sufficient to place the employer on notice triggering the employers obligation under California law if the worker contacts the employer shortly before or shortly after being absent, advising the employer of the reasons of his absence and providing medical documentation or other objective proof of having the underlying health condition.

This position of California courts makes sense, as it would be unreasonable to expect an employee to be familiar with the specific legal terms, such as FMLA and CFRA, and actually use them in order to receive the medical leave of absence benefits that he or she would be entitled under the law. It is sufficient that the employer is placed on reasonably clear notice of its employee’s medical condition to trigger the employer’s FMLA/CFRA obligations.