In a decision that stresses the importance of timely and accurate CFRA notice and recordkeeping procedures, a California court, in Rogers v. County of Los Angeles, held that an employee who used up her 12 week allotment of CFRA leave and did not return to employment until 19 weeks after her leave began was not entitled to job reinstatement.
Katrina Rogers, a County of Los Angeles employee with 36 years of tenure, went on leave for work-related stress. Her employer promptly designated the leave as CFRA leave for a serious health condition. During the leave, the County underwent organizational changes, which included the transfer of Rogers to another department. Rogers returned from her leave 19 weeks after it began, and when she learned of the proposed transfer, became "visibly upset" and "hostile" as she felt the transfer was a "demotion" and a "slap in the face." Rogers sued the County for, among other things, a violation of her CFRA rights.
After a jury verdict in favor of Rogers for $356,000, the County appealed. The court of appeal held that Rogers could not prevail on her claim for CFRA interference because her right to reinstatement expired when the 12-week protected CFRA leave period expired. The court further held that Rogers could not prevail on her claim that she was unlawfully retaliated against for exercising her CFRA rights, as she produced no evidence to rebut the County's legitimate, non-discriminatory reason that she was transferred for business efficiency. The court of appeal reversed the trial court and directed it to enter judgment in favor of the County.
Key to the County's victory was its prompt designation of Roger's leave as CFRA leave, which caused Rogers to be unprotected after she used up her allotted 12 weeks of protected CFRA leave. Timely and consistent personnel procedures for designation of FMLA/CFRA absences are critical to ensure that leave periods are used properly, and provide employers with options to deal with employees who exceed their protected leave.