Omid Nosrati

What employees should know about intermittent bonding leave

In a series of ongoing posts, our blog has been taking a closer look at the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, focusing first on the conditions employees must satisfy to fall within their protective ambit and, most recently, on the situations in which "family care and medical leave” may be taken.

The next logical step in this discussion is to look at how leave can be taken under the FMLA/CFRA. Specifically, an examination as to whether employees entitled to the 12 weeks in a 12-month period must take the time away all at once or can break it up.

In general, both the FMLA and the CFRA dictate that qualifying employees may take leave 1) in a single block, 2) on a reduced work schedule or 3) on an intermittent leave basis.

While this may then seem like a straightforward matter, it's actually fairly complex. To illustrate this complexity, consider the differing approaches taken by the FMLA and the CFRA toward intermittent leave as it relates to bonding time. To recap, this refers to the time taken by an employee for the birth of a child, or the placement of a child in connection with foster care or adoption.

While the FMLA dictates that employees must secure an agreement/consent from an employer to take intermittent leave for bonding, the CFRA has no such requirement. However, it does dictate that the basic minimum duration for intermittent bonding leave is two weeks.

Furthermore, it provides that employers must grant requests for intermittent bonding leave lasting less than two weeks on at least two occasions, and may grant additional requests for these shorter leaves as it sees fit.

As you can see, the issue of when leave can be taken under the FMLA/CFRA is far from simple. As such, employees who believe their employer has unjustly denied their request for leave -- or wrongfully terminated them for exercising these rights -- should strongly consider consulting with a skilled legal professional.

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