Administering leaves of absence and time away from the workplace has become a source of great frustration for many employers because employers must accurately identify, designate and track leaves of absence, and the impact of those leaves on sick leave, vacation and paid time off. At times, an employee’s time away from the office will touch on multiple statutory and discretionary leaves of absence. When responding to a request for time off from an employee, the employer should always consider whether the employee’s request implicates a statutory leave right. California has several statutory leave requirements, in addition to the discretionary leaves that an employer may choose to provide. In addition, employers must also determine whether the employee’s time away from the office is paid or unpaid.
If an employer does not properly classify, designate, and track an employee’s time off, the employer can be liable for unpaid wages, improperly deducted wages, interference with leave rights, or retaliation for seeking to take leave. The potential liability is incredibly high, and employers should educate themselves about the different leaves and take steps to make sure that policies and practices regarding time away from the workplace are properly instituted.