• Paid Family Leave Benefits Are Almost Here
  • March 22, 2004 | Author: Karina B. Sterman
  • Law Firm: Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP - Beverly Hills Office
  • California has become the first state in the nation to offer wage replacement benefits for employees who take time off from their jobs to care for a new child or a family member with a serious health condition. The legislation, which became effective January 1, 2004 and which will make benefits available after July 1, 2004, is known as Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI). The new law, which applies to all employers currently covered by the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program regardless of the number of employees in the business, provides workers partial reimbursement of their pay for up to six weeks during any 12-month period. Medical certification will be required for all absences under FTDI, and the law provides that it is unlawful to present a false statement in support of a benefit claim. Here are a few important things to remember about FTDI:

    1. FTDI Overlaps With Other Leaves. FTDI does not create a new right to a leave of absence but, like SDI, merely provides pay for the time an employee is off work for a covered reason. Unlike the Family Medical Leave Act or California Family Rights Act (FMLA/CFRA), the new FTDI provides benefits when an employee is required to care for a domestic partner or child of a domestic partner. However, an employee who is entitled to leave under the FMLA/CFRA must use FTDI benefits concurrent with the FMLA/CFRA leave. An employee who is entitled to sick leave may also be eligible for FTDI benefits during at least half of that sick leave.

    2. Employees Get Increased Pay But Not Increased Protections. There is no length of service requirement to be eligible for FTDI. Thus, an employee who has been with the company for one day is eligible. However, there is a one-week waiting period before the worker can apply for the benefits (similar to the unemployment insurance program). In addition, at the time of an employee's first claim for benefits filed in any 12-month period, employers can require the use of up to two weeks of unused vacation time. Moreover, FTDI does not create a separate right for employees to guaranteed job reinstatement. Therefore, unless job reinstatement is required under another law, such as FMLA/CFRA or Pregnancy Disability Leave, an employee on FTDI leave (which is a maximum of six weeks) is not necessarily entitled to job reinstatement.

    3. Employers Must Give Notice. FTDI notices must be distributed to new employees hired on or after January 1, 2004 and to each employee leaving work on or after July 1, 2004 for a qualifying reason, such as pregnancy, non-occupational illness or injury, or the need to provide care for a sick or injured family member or bond with a new child. The notices are available for downloading on the Employment Development Department's website.