Can You Work While on CFRA Leave in California? A Comprehensive Guide

September 25, 2022

California's employment laws provide robust protections for workers, including the right to take leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). This article aims to provide an extensive and detailed guide to help employees navigate the complexities of CFRA leave and understand the implications of working during their leave.

What is CFRA Leave?

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is a state law that parallels the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons while preserving their job security.

Eligibility for CFRA Leave

Before we dive into the specifics of working during CFRA leave, let's understand who qualifies for CFRA leave:

Employer Size

CFRA applies to employers with 5 or more employees within the United States. Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees. Public, as well as private, elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers without regard to the number of employees.

Length of Employment

To be eligible, you must have worked for your employer for at least 12 months.

Hours Worked

You had to have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months.

Qualifying Reasons

CFRA allows leave for:

  • Bonding with or caring for a newborn child or the placement of a child in connection with the adoption or foster care of the child.
  • Care for your spouse (including those in same-sex marriages), registered domestic partner, child (of any age), child of domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or designated person.
  • Your own serious medical condition that prevents you from performing your job duties.
  • A qualifying military exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of your spouse, domestic partner, child (of any age), or parent in the United States Armed Forces.

Taking Time Off While On CFRA: The Basics

Taking time off while on CFRA leave involves a careful understanding of the rules and regulations. Here, we'll explore the fundamental aspects of how CFRA leave works and the key considerations for employees.

Duration of CFRA Leave

CFRA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. This means that you can take continuous leave for a specific period or break it up into intermittent or reduced-schedule leave, depending on your needs.

Notice Requirements

To take CFRA leave, you must provide your employer with reasonable notice, typically at least 30 days in advance if the need for leave is foreseeable. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, you should provide notice as soon as practicable. Your employer may also require you to provide medical certification for certain types of leave.

Job Protection

One of the significant benefits of CFRA leave is job protection. When you return from CFRA leave, your employer must generally reinstate you to the same or an equivalent position with the same pay, benefits, and terms of employment. This protection helps ensure your job security during your leave.

Paid vs. Unpaid Leave

CFRA leave is unpaid, meaning you won't receive your regular salary or wages during your time off. However, you may be able to use accrued paid leave, such as sick leave or vacation days, to continue receiving some income while on leave. Check with your employer's policies and state regulations for details.

Coordinating with Other Leave Laws

CFRA leave often overlaps with other leave laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. Understanding how these laws interact is essential to maximize your leave benefits.

Returning to Work

When your CFRA leave concludes, you have the right to return to your previous position or an equivalent one with the same benefits and terms of employment. Be sure to communicate your return date with your employer to ensure a smooth transition back to work.

two people discussing something while checking some papers

Working During CFRA Leave

Working while on CFRA leave is possible under specific circumstances, but it's crucial to be aware of the regulations and considerations.

Intermittent Leave and Reduced Schedule

One unique aspect of CFRA is that it permits employees to take leave intermittently or on a reduced schedule when medically necessary. This means you can work on certain days or reduce your working hours while still availing CFRA leave for medical reasons.

Bonding Leave

For employees taking CFRA leave to bond with a new child, there's even more flexibility. You can work part-time or on an intermittent basis while on bonding CFRA leave, ensuring that you can balance your personal and professional responsibilities.

However, for either bonding leave or intermittent leave, you should only work on the days and/or schedule that you and your employer have agreed to. You are not permitted to perform work off the clock or perform work on the days that you are taking approved leave.

Restrictions and Considerations

While CFRA provides flexibility, there are crucial restrictions and considerations to keep in mind.

Employer Approval

Whenever you plan to work during CFRA leave, it's essential to discuss your intentions with your employer and seek their approval. Your employer must approve your request for intermittent CFRA before you begin your leave. Having a written agreement or documentation in place can prevent misunderstandings. You should have agreed to a system with your employer on how to document your time away from work which is CFRA intermittent leave so you do not run into your employer thinking you have an attendance problem when you have approved intermittent CFRA leave.

Health Care Benefits

During CFRA leave, your employer is generally required to maintain your health care benefits. However, it's vital to understand how the cost-sharing arrangement may change during this period.

Interference and Retaliation

Under CFRA, your employer cannot interfere with your right to take CFRA leave, nor can they retaliate against you for taking it. However, employers are only required to accommodate employees by offering something like intermittent CFRA if it does not cause the company an undue hardship. There are times when your employer may grant your request for CFRA leave, but not intermittent leave.

Planning Your CFRA Leave

Effective planning is essential when considering working during CFRA leave. Here are some key steps:

Open Communication

Maintain transparent communication with your employer. Discuss your plans, work schedule, and any modifications to your duties openly.

Legal Advice

If you're uncertain about your rights or encounter resistance from your employer, seek legal advice from experts like Freeburg & Granieri, specializing in California employment law.


Keep thorough records of your conversations with your employer, any modifications to your work schedule, and any changes in your health care benefits.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your rights as an employee under CFRA is crucial to ensure a smooth leave experience.

a wooden gavel hammer

Reach Out to Freeburg & Granieri

As an employee, you may have specific questions or concerns related to your CFRA leave.

If you believe your CFRA leave situation is unique or complex, our legal experts can provide personalized guidance to navigate your specific challenges.

For legal assistance tailored to your needs, reach out to Freeburg & Granieri. Our experienced attorneys can offer the expertise you require to protect your rights and make informed decisions during your CFRA leave.

Contact us today!


Navigating CFRA leave in California, especially when considering working during your intermittent leave, involves understanding your rights, communicating effectively with your employer, and seeking legal guidance when necessary. With the right knowledge and support, you can ensure a smooth CFRA leave experience while protecting your job security and well-being.

For more detailed information and personalized legal advice regarding CFRA leave and your employment rights, don't hesitate to contact Freeburg & Granieri, a reputable law firm in California.


Can I work while on CFRA leave?

Yes, under very limited circumstances, you can work while on CFRA leave. CFRA allows for intermittent leave, and reduced schedules in specific situations. However, generally, you do not work while on CFRA leave.

Will my health care benefits be affected during CFRA leave?

Your employer is generally required to maintain your health care benefits during CFRA leave, but the cost-sharing arrangement may change. Be sure to discuss this with your employer.

What if my employer interferes with my CFRA leave rights or retaliates against me?

CFRA is a job-protected leave. If you believe your employer is interfering with your CFRA leave rights or retaliating against you for taking CFRA leave, consult with an attorney to explore your legal options.


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