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Does Your California Employer Ask You to Choose Between Your Job and Your Family?

"No man is an island." "It takes a village to raise a child." Both of these sayings may be cliché, but that doesn't mean that they don't hold true for a lot of people. Unfortunately, not everyone has an easy time getting their California employer to support them when it comes to making their family members a priority, sometimes ahead of their job. But legally employers are required to support work-life balance, especially when it applies to taking care of children or sick relatives.

Both Federal and California law have long provided protections against those who need to care for their children, parents, or spouses during medical emergencies, but in California the right to put family first was expanded even further as part of the SB-579 bill of 2015. Some areas where employers are forbidden to discriminate include

  • Forbidding or retaliating against qualified caretakers who take advantage of up to 40 hours per year for school or child care related activities for children from birth through 12th grade. The old law limited these rights to parents, guardians, or grandparents with custody of the child, but the rights have now been extended to step-parents and foster parents. In addition, child care providers no longer need to be licensed day cares. Employees who need to take advantage of this right also have the option of using unpaid time off or using some of their paid vacation or personal time for these activities.
  • Discriminating against employees who use their accrued sick time to attend to a sick child, parent, spouse or domestic partner rather than only using it when they themselves are ill.
  • Discriminating against those who need time off to handle unforeseen school or child care emergencies such as weather closures or behavioral issues where a provider has asked that a child be picked up.
  • Using sick time to help with situations covered in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, that allows for family members to provide care for qualifying family members who have a health condition or are victims of domestic violence. Qualifying family members include
    • Spouses and domestic partners
    • Parents ( including biological, adoptive, foster, and step parents) regardless of whether they are a dependent
    • Children of these parents
    • Grandparents
    • Grandchildren
    • Siblings

While the 2014 law allowed for time off in these circumstances, the time did not have to be granted with pay using sick time until more recently.

When Discrimination Happens

California's laws supporting those who want to be there to support their families are more generous than they are in some other states, and sometimes employers may not have a full understanding of what provisions are required. Still, not knowing is no excuse for not complying with the law. Those who find themselves denied the time off they need in any of these situations, or who experience the threat or reality of retaliation have the right to receive either a full day's pay or they may hire a lawyer to help them pursue civil action that will explore whether or not the situation warrants additional damages. If you feel your employer is getting in the way of your exercising your rights to be available to family members when they need you, an employment rights attorney may be able to help you set the record straight and get the compensation you deserve.

Sources: /billVersionsCompareClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB579,,

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