In a recent hearing in California, the Court of Appeals overturned an arbitrators ruling in a case regarding a violation of the California Family Rights Act.  It was determined that the employer’s “honest belief” that an employee had violated the conditions of his CFRA leave was not credible, and that the company did not perform due diligence by investigating this matter fully.

The ruling, which came in the case of Richey v. AutoNation, Inc, has brought to light the need for companies and employees to fully understand the terms and conditions of the CFRA and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Human resource managers need to be clear on what is expected of the employee while on this sort of leave, and also need to understand the requirements of the company as the employer when allowing an employee to take a leave under the CFRA or FMLA.

In this case, the employee was terminated due to the employers “honest belief” that he had violated the terms of his CFRA leave.  The employee then sued the company stating that his discharge violated the rules of the CFRA.  An arbitrator heard the arguments, and ruled in favor of the company.  Upon taking the matter to the California Court of Appeals, the Court overturned the arbitrators ruling, noting that there was not enough evidence or a proper investigation by the company to make this “honest belief” determination.

For California employers, this is an example of the caution that should be taken when refusing to reinstate or terminating an employee on CFRA leave, even if there is belief that the employee abused the leave or deceived the employer into granting the leave.  If the decision to discharge has been considered, be sure to fully investigate this claim before taking further action.  Failure to do so can result in unwanted litigation.  Be sure that all policies and procedures are spelled out for every employee, so that all know exactly what is expected of them when it comes to every sort of leave opportunity.

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