Family Care and Medical Leave

All employees who have been employed by the university at least 12 months by the start of the leave and have worked at least 1250 hours during the 12-month period immediately preceding commencement of the leave are eligible. Additional provisions for faculty may apply and may be found in the Faculty Handbook.

The university’s family care and medical leave policy adheres to the requirements of the California Family Rights Act of 1991 and Amendment of 1993 (CFRA), and the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). Family Care Medical Leave (FCML), CFRA leave and FMLA leave run concurrently, with the exception of pregnancy-related disabilities, and FCML runs concurrently with paid disability leave for eligible employees up to a total leave not to exceed 12 weeks.

FCML, CFRA leave and FMLA leave are unpaid. If leave is requested for an employee’s own serious health condition, the employee may be required to use all of his or her accrued paid vacation or sick leave. FMLA runs concurrently with paid disability leave for eligible employees. If leave is requested for any of the other reasons listed below at items a) through c), an employee may be required to use all of his or her accrued paid vacation leave. The remainder of the leave period will then consist of unpaid leave.

A dean or supervisor must inform the employee of his or her rights under this policy when that employee raises an issue that may qualify him or her for FCML. Any leave counted against the allowable 12 weeks for FCML must be designated in advance, in writing, by the supervisor.

Eligible employees may request or shall be considered on a leave of absence for the following reasons:

  • the birth of the employee’s child or to care for such a child;
  • the placement of a child with the employee through adoption or foster care;
  • to care for a parent, spouse, or child who has a serious health condition; or
  • the employee’s own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform his or her job duties.

For purposes of this policy, the following definitions are used:

  • Child (under age 18) – biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, legal ward; or an adult dependent child incapable of self-care due to a physical or mental disability.
  • Parent – biological, foster or adoptive parent, a stepparent, a legal guardian or other person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child. It does not include parents-in-law.
  • Spouse – a partner in marriage as defined in Family Code section 300.
  • Serious Health Condition – an illness, injury, (including on-the-job injuries) impairment or physical or mental condition of the employee or a child, parent or spouse of the employee, that involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility; or continuous treatment by a health care provider.
  • Health Care Provider – doctor of medicine or osteopathy authorized to practice medicine or surgery in the state in which the doctor practices; podiatrist, dentist, clinical psychologist, optometrist, chiropractor, nurse practitioner, and nurse-midwives, if authorized to practice under state law; or, Christian Science practitioners listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Continuing Treatment – includes two or more visits to a health care provider, or two or more treatments by a health care practitioner on referral from or under the direction of a health care provider, or single visit to a health care provider that results in a schedule of continuing treatment under that provider’s supervision, or under the continuing supervision of a health care provider.
  • Comparable Position – the same or equivalent position and pay rate, at the same or similar location, as the employee held prior to the leave.

Length of Family Care and Medical Leave

Eligible employees may request up to 12 weeks of unpaid FCML within any 12-month period. To meet the requirement of providing 12 weeks of leave in any 12-month period, a rolling 12-month period measured backward from the date the employee uses any FCML is utilized. Staff employees on a pregnancy related leave should refer to the staff Pregnancy Related Leave policy. Faculty should refer to the Faculty Handbook.

Leave Conditions

An employee intending to request family care or medical leave must submit an application for leave, to his or her dean or supervisor, at least 30 days in advance, or as soon as the necessity for the leave arises. A request for FCML may be disapproved if the employee requesting the leave is not considered eligible.

If the request is due to the serious illness of the employee, the request must be accompanied by a certification from a licensed medical practitioner. It must include the beginning and probable ending dates of the illness and state that the employee is unable to perform his or her job due to the serious health condition.

When the leave is foreseeable and a 30-day notice is given, the employee should provide the certification before the leave begins. When this is not possible, the certification must be provided within the time frame requested by the dean or supervisor. If circumstances do not allow this, the dean or supervisor must allow the employee at least 15 calendar days from the date requested to provide the certification.

Approval may be conditioned on the employee submitting to a second examination by a qualified medical practitioner chosen by the university. If the first and second examinations conflict, the department may require a third and binding examination by a health care provider mutually agreed upon by the employee and the university. It is the responsibility of the department to pay for the second and third examinations. Updated statements may be required if the period of time covered by the initial certification expires.

An employee cannot be denied FCML because his or her salary is among the university’s top 10% of highest paid employees. However, a staff employee can be denied restoration of his or her position following the leave if such reinstatement would cause the department substantial and grievous economic injury. The staff employee must be notified of this before taking the leave.

If the request for leave is due to the serious illness of an eligible family member it must be accompanied by a medical certification from a health care provider that the condition warrants the participation of the employee, an estimate of the time involved, the probable duration of the medical condition and the date the condition commenced. The employee’s written request must include the employee’s intent to return to work and the expected date of return. Updated statements may be required if the period of time covered by the initial certification expires.

If the request for leave is for the birth of the employee’s child, or for the placement of a child with the employee through adoption or foster care, it must be started within one year of the child’s arrival. If both parents are employed by the university, the combined total leave is limited to 12 weeks in any 12-month period.

Intermittent Leave

Leave for a serious health condition of the employee, the employee’s child, spouse, or parent may be taken intermittently or on a reduced work schedule by the employee working fewer days in a week or working fewer hours in a day provided such a schedule is medically necessary. Medical certification including the expected length and schedule of the leave may be required. The medical certification requirement would be satisfied with a description of the treatment plan of the serious health condition. The supervisor may temporarily transfer a staff employee to another position for which the employee is qualified and which could better accommodate recurring periods of leave; the staff employee must receive equivalent pay and benefits. Employees must try to set their leave schedule so as not to disrupt the department’s operations.

Employees who need to take occasional time off to transport the patient for medical treatment or to participate in the care must make every reasonable effort to schedule such time away from work to avoid disruption to the department.

When the employee takes leave on an intermittent basis or on a reduced work schedule, only the time actually taken for FCML will be charged against the total leave time to which the employee is entitled.


While on FCML, a benefits-eligible employee may elect to continue participation in health and dental plans and the university will continue to pay its portion just as though the employee remained in pay status. The employee must contact Human Resources Administration to make arrangements to continue benefits coverage. The employee must pay his or her contributions by the end of each month. After 30 days of non-payment of the employee’s portion, the benefits will be cancelled. If the employee does not return from FCML, the university may recover amounts paid on behalf of the employee. Should the employee elect not to continue benefits during FCML, the employee may re-enroll effective the first of the month following the return to work upon proper application through Human Resources Administration.

Retirement contributions to a defined contribution plan or service credits to a defined benefit plan will not accrue during any unpaid portion of the leave.

A staff employee on FCML will not lose credit for seniority earned prior to the leave. Staff employees are not eligible for holiday pay for holidays falling within the leave period. In the event the leave extends beyond 30 days, vacation and sick leave stop accruing.

Pay during Family Care and Medical Leave

A staff employee may elect, or the supervisor may require, that the staff employee use any accrued vacation, or, to the extent allowed by university policy, sick leave as part or all of the period. Any paid leave counted against the allowable 12 weeks for FCML must be designated in advance; it is the supervisor’s responsibility to make the designation. Should the staff employee not have enough paid leave, the remainder of the leave will be taken without pay. Faculty should refer to the Faculty Handbook.

Return to Work following a Family Care and Medical Leave

Returning to work will be contingent upon a written certification/medical opinion that the employee is fully able to perform all essential duties of the position as described in the job description. Deans, directors, department heads or supervisors requiring this certification must be particularly careful to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. An employee who is granted FCML is guaranteed the same or comparable position upon return to work at no less than the same pay rate, classification, shift, work schedule, without loss of seniority, the same or similar geographical location, and without any waiting period for benefits. Prior and past leave times will be linked for the purpose of computing seniority and vacation accruals, and for calculation of separation pay in case of layoff.

Failure to Return from Leave

The failure of a staff employee to return to work upon the expiration of a family or medical leave of absence will subject the staff employee to immediate termination. The failure of a faculty employee to return to work upon the expiration of family or medical leave is considered serious neglect of duty which may be treated as grounds for termination according to the process in of the Faculty Handbook. An employee who requests an extension due to the continuation, recurrence or onset of his or her own serious health condition or of the serious health condition of the employee’s spouse, child or parent, must submit a request for an extension, in writing, to his or her dean or supervisor. This request should be made prior to the expiration of the leave.


It is unlawful to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for exercising his/her right to take Family Care and Medical Leave.

Responsible Offices

Human Resources Administration
(213) 821-8100

Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

(213) 740-6715

Issued By:

Dennis F. Dougherty, Senior Vice President for Administration
University of Southern California