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Human Resources/Payment For Medical Leave


QUESTION: My boyfriend works for a company in California that employs approximately 500 employees within 75 miles. The person who handles HR issues is an HR Manager. He has been out of work on a medical leave of absence for two weeks and has two more weeks left on his leave. He is a salaried employee and has not been receiving any pay during this leave of absence. He has been with the company for 11 months. He has been accruing sick time and PTO but may not be able to take it until he has been there for 1 year(he needs to check with HR about their policy).

If the sick time/PTO is not available to him yet, is there any law or regulation that would allow him to collect his salary?

ANSWER: Jennifer,

If he has been with the company for only 11 months, it doesnt seem he is eligible for paid leave under either the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

HEre is reference info on the CFRA.

At this point, he is eligible for paid leave in accordance to the Company's written policy.

I hope this helps.

Brian Phillips

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you for your reply Brian.

My boyfriend just received a letter from his HR Dept stating that if his medical leave extends beyond 30 days he will be available to apply for any open positions at his company upon his return but will not be able to return to his current position.

Is this legal?

Being that he has turned in documentation from his physician placing him off work, it's difficult for me to understand how that gives his employer the right to fire or demote him (although I do understand that California is an "at will" employment state and they could conceivably fire him for no reason at all.) However, I am not familiar with what California law has to say about this type of situation. Also, does it make a difference if the medical leave is related to mental health?


I hope you take my response as neutral as possible on this as I am speaking from close to 20 years dealing with people who miss time due to being sick/ ill/ unable to work.

The letter the company gave your boyfriend seems appropriate and legal based on the information you provided.   If he is out sick for more than 30 days, there is no reason to "save " his job for him-- what if he is out another 30 days ?  How long should they "hold" his job open waiting for him to come back?   It would be a grand gesture by the company to tell him not to worry and just come back whenever you are ready, but the fact is they are likely not in a position to save a job for a month with nobody doing it-- or need to hire someone to fill in for him;  or pay to hire a temp and train them, or move someone else from another department,  or split up his work among other employees ( in the latter case, why have the extra person there ?).   

Although many employees will ask a doctor to write notes, letters and documentation to explain why they are unable to work, the bottom line is the company needs  people to be available and reporting for work on a reliable basis.  Some jobs really need the employee with that job to be there as an absence can cause many issues.   I am not sure of what your boyfriend did for a living,  but either way, the company feels his job is that important.   Giving notice or having a doctors note may still be look at unfavorably,    maybe it is just not a great place to work either...  I cant comment..

For people who are very sick over long periods of time or are sick at least once a week or every other week for some reason it puts both the employee and the company in a difficult situation.  People miss work for all types of reasons--  both real and false.  The company needs reliable employees who  regularly show up and miss a minimum amount of time due to illness as well as  cars breaking down,  no babysitter, missed the bus and 100 other reasons why people may not show up for work.    Companies will have policies for allowable missed time called sick time, personal or vacation - or PTO.  The law does not require companies provide ANY benefits either-- so if they are offered, it is at the company's discretion to pay people for missed time when no work is performed.  These are benefits.

Of course, people get sick and even worse....and can be terrible situations too.  People may miss time for their own serious medical conditions or those of dependents and for this reason, and primarilly for the reasons relating to childbirth, the federal govt instituted Family Medical Leave.   However, an employee must be employed for 1 year to be "covered"  by this act and also have a medical situation that is also covered.   Other qualifications must also be met.   California is one of many other states that implemented their own laws to offer more protection for employees from sickness or illness based absences.  The link to the California law was attached in the other reply-  go to the link and check it out.

There is no hard and fast rule for how to separate people with a real medical condition from someone who finds an excuse for a few paid or unpaid day off.  Im not suggesting this is your boyfriends case; just that the employer doesn't have time to keep open a job for him if he is not there.   They likely have 10 people waiting to fill this job - or more.

I can go into a lot of detail,  but you are right they can let him go for missing too much time.  They could also let him go for being late each day....   or they can just lay him off.    So, he may be fighting an uphill battle on this.

So, giving him 30 days to get his situation resolved is more than fair in my opinion.
If he needs more time, then this should be the priority for him and take care of himself.

Next issue-- you now say it might be mental health related.    This issue may or may not be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Hard to say with no other information on the details of the mental health situation.   (I'm not asking for any details either)    Of course, for this to apply, the employer would need to have been made aware of the employee's "mental illness" and how it impacts his employment and any reasonable accommodations that might be needed.    OF course, making accommodations is not mandated for every situation and therefore, mental issues may not matter in the fact he is being let go.

So, mental health issues are painted with a very wide brush and likely would have no impact on the 30 days he was given to come back to work.

I dont think this is the response you were looking for,  but if you would like to discuss offline you can call me toll free.  Look up my number on my company website found in the profile.

Best regards,


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Brian Phillips


Foreign and US university students -*PLEASE*- DO NOT waste your time asking for my opinions, comments or analysis of your homework questions. Homework questions are not answered and are rejected. I am happy to help answer questions asked by employees and employers regarding United States based state and Federal wage and hour, OT, Fair labor standards, FMLA, COBRA, Recruiting, Interviewing techniques, employee manuals, discipline, terminations/quits, unemployment, HRIS rollout, Employee Leasing or Staffing company cost analysis, day to day scenarios, work situations and more. Essentially a well rounded HR generalist who operates Harvis, Inc., a human resource consulting and service business based in Northeastern Pennsylvania "NEPA".


At Harvis, Inc., we provide Human Resource products, services and advice to small businesses that may not have the time or resources to hire a full time HR department. For larger companies with HR managers in place, we compliment their expertise to help with time consuming or time sensitive projects like updating policy manuals, screening and interviewing and more. We make workplaces better by becoming that 1/2 person they need to help handle HR responsibilities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Formerly responsible for all Human Resource activity for a staffing agency with 2,500 annual employees as well as an employee leasing / PEO business with 1,500 annual employees. Designed and implemented the HR structure to support hundreds of clients in excess of $ 500 million in payroll volume over career in Human Resources.

* President 2006- Harvis Inc. HR Services * President 2010-13 Business Association of the Greater Shickshinny Area - Shickshinny PA * President 2013- ShickshinnyForward Not for Profit Community Long Term Revitalization Organization and former member of varios Chambers of Commerce and HR Taskforce, former President of NBC Business Club 2 years

Bloomsburg University - 1993 BS Marketing, Bloomsburg Pennsylvania and Luzerne County Community College - 1991 Business Administration, Nanticoke Pennsylvania

Awards and Honors
* Better than average - 20/10 vision * Bestowed with an occasional "Thank You" from clients and their employees.

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