California Wildfires and the FMLA

September 12, 2019

Wildfires are unfortunately an expected circumstance of life in California. Wildfires can completely destroy communities and create catastrophic health consequences for the residents of these areas.
Oftentimes, employees will have to take off substantial amounts of time from work due to injuries sustained due to wildfires either to themselves or loved ones. Without legal protection, many employees would lose their jobs if they simply took time off to care for themselves or a family member.

However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), is a federal law that requires employers to provide certain employees under certain circumstances up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. This law is available to wildfire victims to take leaves of absence when wildfires affect their health or the health of their families.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act?

FMLA is a federal law that was established to allow employees to take unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. Any company with 50 or more employees, all public agencies, and all public and private elementary and secondary schools are under the jurisdiction of the FMLA law.
The law clearly states that these employers are required to allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care
  • To care for an immediate family member (i.e., spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition

Additionally, it is important to note that California enacted the California Family Rights Act to mirror and support the federal FMLA laws.

Wildfires and the FMLA

Wildfires create unexpected complex challenges for everyone affected by them. No business can fully prepare for the devastation and fallout created by wildfires in California. However, if a wildfire is forcing evacuations and bringing losses to property and life near your place of employment, you have rights under the law regarding taking leave.

While generous employers may allow employees to use their saved vacation or sick leave, employers are also required under the law to allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave.

If you are affected by the California wildfires and need to take care of your own health, or the health of a family member, you have the right under FMLA law of up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to care for yourself or your family member. A family member can include a spouse, child, foster child, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling.

Consult with an Experienced FLMA Attorney in California

When your life circumstances include the devastation of a wildfire, you should know that you have the right to take time off of work without fear of repercussions under the Family Medical Leave Act.

If you feel that your rights under the FMLA have been violated or denied, contact one of our employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeremy Pasternak in San Francisco or Los Angeles at 415-373-1287, 213-797-5823 or online today. We are happy to offer a free consultation to discuss your right to FMLA after a California wildfire.

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