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Navigating CFRA Leave: Understanding Eligibility and Addressing Denials

June 18, 2024

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a pivotal statute that grants eligible employees the right to take unpaid, protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. However, it’s crucial for both employees and employers to understand the intricacies of CFRA leave, including the eligibility criteria, the valid reasons for leave requests, and the conditions under which a leave request can be lawfully denied. This comprehensive guide combines key insights from our previous discussions to provide a thorough understanding of navigating CFRA leave.

Eligibility Criteria for CFRA Leave

To determine eligibility for CFRA leave, the following criteria must be met:

  • 12 Months of Employment: The employee should have worked for more than 12 months with the employer.
  • 1,250 Hours of Service: The employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months leading up to the leave.
  • Employer Size: The employer must have 5 or more employees.

Reasons for CFRA Leave

Employees may take CFRA leave for several reasons, including:

  • Bonding with a new child.
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Addressing their own serious health condition.
  • Dealing with exigencies related to a family member’s active military service.

Grounds for Lawful Denial of CFRA Leave

While CFRA aims to protect employee rights, there are scenarios where an employer can lawfully deny a CFRA leave request:

  • Non-Compliance with Eligibility: If the employee does not meet the aforementioned eligibility criteria.
  • Inadequate Notice: Failing to provide the employer with reasonable advance notice, especially for foreseeable leave.
  • Insufficient Documentation: Not supplying the necessary certification from a healthcare provider to support the need for leave.
  • Exhaustion of Leave: If the employee has already utilized the allotted 12 weeks of CFRA leave within the designated 12-month period.
  • Key Employee Exception: Denial is possible if granting leave would cause substantial and grievous economic injury, considering the employee’s role and salary.

Employer Responsibilities in Denial

Employers must handle CFRA leave denials responsibly by:

  • Providing Clear Reasons: Articulating the specific reasons for the denial based on CFRA regulations.
  • Guiding the Employee: Helping the employee understand how to rectify the issues or exploring alternative solutions.
  • Maintaining Fair Practice: Applying CFRA policies evenly and justly to all employees.

Employee Actions in Response to Denial

If an employee encounters a CFRA leave denial, they should:

  • Clarify the Denial: Seek a detailed explanation to ensure the denial complies with CFRA standards.
  • Document All Efforts: Keep records of all interactions related to the leave request.
  • Consult HR or Legal Counsel: Approach HR for guidance or seek legal advice if the denial seems unjustified.
  • File a Complaint if Necessary: Contact the California Civil Rights Department if CFRA rights are believed to be violated.
  • Understand Legal Options: Consider speaking to an employment law attorney to evaluate potential recourse.


Understanding CFRA leave eligibility, the application process, and the conditions for lawful denial is essential for both employees wishing to take leave and employers managing such requests. While employers have the right to deny CFRA leave under certain conditions, they must ensure that any denial is grounded in the act’s stipulations. Employees, in turn, should be vigilant in meeting the eligibility criteria, providing necessary documentation, and following proper protocols when requesting leave. In the face of a denial, maintaining open communication, seeking clarification, and understanding one’s legal options are vital steps in protecting one’s rights under CFRA.

Navigating CFRA leave can be complex, but with a thorough understanding of the law and a clear communication channel between employers and employees, the process can be managed effectively and fairly for all involved parties.

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    Labor Law PC

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