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Guest Post: California Married Individuals May Qualify for Paid Time Off for Family Leave

Boyce HinmanBecause Proposition 8 was overturned by the US Supreme Court, if you are in a same sex marriage, you may qualify to take paid time off from work if your husband or wife is seriously ill.

Note: I am not an attorney or a qualified tax expert. No action should be taken based solely on the content of these memos. However, I hope the memos will help you ask the right questions of people who are qualified in these issues.

Now that same sex couples can marry in California, they may qualify for paid family leave under California law. They may also qualify for family leave under federal law. However the federal law does not provide income during the period of the leave.

Here is how the state law works.

California law allows people who work for most private employers to take up to 6 weeks (per 12 month period) of paid time off of work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new born child. People may also take paid time off to bond with a newly adopted child or with a child who is new to the home as a foster child.

In addition, self employed workers can qualify for the benefit if they have enrolled in the State Disability Income Elective Coverage Program.

Since same sex couples are now allowed to marry in California, workers can now qualify for paid time off to care for a seriously ill same sex spouse.

This paid time off program is a part of the California Disability Insurance (SDI) program, and those who qualify for SDI generally qualify for paid family leave as well.

Generally employees of the state of California do not qualify for this benefit. However they do qualify if their union has successfully bargained for the right to the coverage.

There is a federal family leave law that does require employers to re-hire workers who have taken time off under that law to care for a sick family member. However, that federal law does not provide any income during the leave period. Also, to qualify for the federal program, the worker must be employed by a company that has at least 50 employees within 75 miles of where the person seeking leave time works.

By contrast, the California Paid Family Leave Program provides income during the leave time, but employers are not required to take the worker back.

The weekly benefit amount (provided by the California Paid Family Leave Program) is approximately 55 percent of the earnings shown in the highest quarter of the employee’s base period. But the total will not exceed $266 per week. The payments come from the state. The employer is not required to pay the employee during the leave period.

Sometimes workers can take adequate care of their spouse, or other family member while working part time. In that case they can get paid part time by their employer and get a partial payment from the California Paid Family Leave Program as well.

Employers can require their workers to take up to 2 weeks of accrued vacation time before leaving on paid family leave. However, they can’t require workers to use accrued sick leave before starting paid family leave.

A medical certificate from a doctor is required when the time off is requested in order to care for a seriously ill family member. That certificate must include a diagnosis of the family member’s illness, the beginning date and probable duration of the illness, along with a statement that care by the person seeking time off is appropriate.

If the request is for bonding the time off requested must be within one year of the arrival of the child.

Workers can apply on line for California paid family leave.

Or they can order a paper copy of form DE 2501F by calling 1-877-238-4373. Hearing impaired people can order the form by Teletypewriter (TTY) 1-800-445-1312. The form also is available to be downloaded.

Authored by Boyce Hinman, founder and director of the California Communities United Institute, and member of Marriage Equality USA. Hinman has been writing and posting a series, "Monday Morning Marriage Memo," as part of his  Anatomy for Justice blog. This article was first published there, and is republished here with the author’s permission. Hinman resides in and serves California, therefore the posts sometimes have a California slant. 

NOTE: Marriage Equality USA is not a legal firm or a tax/accounting firm. No action should be taken based solely on the content of our news blog or website. 

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