San Francisco leads way in employees’ paid leave rights

This week’s question comes from Rebecca in Foster City, who writes:

Q: “My daughter is in need of a surgery, and I would like to take time off to spend with her while she is in the hospital and while she recovers at home. But my boss said that I don’t have enough sick time in the books to take any more time off. Am I entitled to take the time off?”

A: Rebecca, I am sorry to hear that your daughter is sick. My thoughts are with you and your family. To start, you should be aware that there are many types of leave laws in California, and sometimes they can be confusing. At times, company human resource representatives are not fully aware of an employee’s right to take leave and the requirements and obligations of the employer to allow it. So it is important for each employee to understand his or her rights.

The most common type of leave taken to care for a loved one is leave under the California Family Rights Act. This type of leave allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for your own serious medical condition or the serious medical condition of an employee’s parents or children — or for baby bonding, when certain conditions are met.

For an employer to be covered under the CFRA, they must have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Here, that usually means that if they have 50 employees within the Bay Area, you will likely be covered. It is important to note that the employees do not need to be in a single location and that if they are spread out over many stores or worksites, so long as there are 50 within 75 miles, the employer must provide the leave to qualifying employees.

If the employer is covered, then the employee is qualified to take the leave if they have been employed by the company for at least 12 months. The employee must have also worked at least 1,260 hours within the past 12 months. That works out to approximately 25 hours per week over one year.

If all of those conditions are met, you would be entitled to take the leave to spend with your daughter in the hospital and while she recovers.

There are also other types of medical leave that may be available to you. All California employers are covered by the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. Last year, that act was amended to include paid leave. The law requires every California employee to accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. That leave may be used to care for existing health condition or for preventative care for the employee or the employee’s family members.

This leave may be an option for you as well. You mentioned that your boss said you had used up all of your sick time, but it is worth checking to make sure that you were accruing sick time in conformity with the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act. Employers are required to put the amount of accrued sick leave an employee has on their pay stub or another document provided at the same time as the pay stub.

Some employers do not like it when employees take leave. This is understandable, since it can create logistical difficulties for the employer. However, the law protects employees from retaliation for requesting or taking leave. If you are entitled to the leave, you have the right to take that time off and are entitled to return to the same position with the same job functions and hours. An employer cannot take adverse job actions against you simply because you exercised your rights to take lawful time off to care for your own medical condition or covered family member.

Finally, if you work in San Francisco, The City has been a leader in providing rights to workers through its own Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, on which the state laws were based. Recent amendments to this ordinance, which parallel state laws, will go into effect in January 2017. The amendment provide workers in San Francisco the ability to take time off when they are sick, when they are needed to care for their family members or have been the victims of domestic violence.

Rebecca, I hope this helps you understand some of your leave options, and that it helps you take the time to care for your daughter.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to

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