Bareno v. San Diego Community College Dist., 7 Cal. App. 5th 546 (2017)

Leticia Bareno, who worked as an assistant at San Diego Miramar College, was terminated after she failed to return from a medical leave of absence that she took pursuant to the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). During the course of Bareno’s employment, she received several disciplinary warnings for, among other things, excessive absences, workplace disagreements, incompetence, inefficiency and neglect of duty. On February 19, 2013, the college disciplined Bareno with a three-day unpaid suspension for additional performance issues; the suspension ran from February 20 through February 22 (a Friday). At 4:30 a.m. on Monday, February 25, Bareno called her supervisor and claimed to be “sick, depressed, stressed” and said she needed to go to the hospital. She subsequently provided a “work status report” from Kaiser indicating that she needed to take a medical leave from February 25 through March 1. Bareno emailed a second “work status report,” placing her “off work” through March 8, which her supervisor denied receiving. Bareno failed to show up for work on Monday, March 4, and on Friday, March 8, the college sent her a letter indicating that her unauthorized absences constituted a voluntary resignation. Although the trial court granted summary judgment to the employer, the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that an employer is obligated to “inquire further” about an employee’s need for CFRA leave before terminating employment and citing the CFRA regulations that give an employee up to 15 days to provide necessary certification of the need for a medical leave. The Court further held that Bareno had submitted sufficient medical certification to support her need for medical leave.