CA Court of Appeals Find Employees May Lose Reinstatement Rights under the CFRA

The California Court of Appeal held that employees who fail to return to work after the expiration of the 12-week leave period protected under the California Family Rights Act of 1993 (“CFRA”) are not entitled to reinstatement of their jobs in their recent decision in Rogers v. Los Angeles.

Under the CFRA, employees are entitled to take protected, unpaid leave for a period up to 12 weeks for family care or personal medical leave reasons.  Employees who take leave under CFRA are protected from job loss or other adverse employment actions, and, upon their return, the employee is restored to the same or a similar job position.  However, in Rogers, the plaintiff did not return to work for a total of 19 weeks, claiming to suffer from work-related stress induced by an un-identified attack on her integrity.  While the plaintiff remained out of work, the County restructured the department which she worked for and assigned the plaintiff to a high-level human resources position in a different department. Although, the plaintiff did not suffer from any lost wages or benefits from the change in position, she refused to accept the new position, claiming it was a “demotion” and a “slap in the face.”  As a result, she filed suit asserting that the County interfered with her CFRA reinstatement rights and retaliated against her for exercising said rights.

The Court of Appeals found that the County did not interfere with the plaintiff’s reinstatement rights under the CFRA.  Under the CFRA, an employee only possesses the reinstatement right if he/she returns to work prior to the expiration of the 12 week protected leave period.  Here, it was undisputed that the plaintiff remained out of work longer than the protected period, and, accordingly, the Court held that she did not have a right to be reinstated or reassigned to a comparable position.  Additionally, there was no evidence that the change in plaintiff’s job position was an act of retaliation on the part the County.

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