Whatever the reason for an employee's continued absence from work, it's in the employer's best interests to take steps to make sure the employee's job gets done. If it's an essential one, those steps may include termination and hiring a replacement once the company determines that the absence constitutes job abandonment. In California, that determination depends on the company's policies, not on any state guidelines or directives.
An employee abandons a job by quitting it without informing the employer. This usually takes the form of an extended absence without the employee having made satisfactory arrangements for it. In an abandonment scenario, the employer usually doesn't have enough information to determine whether the employee's absence is intentional or not and at some point must take appropriate steps to keep the business operating. The absence can result in termination, even if it isn't intentional, and the resulting negative consequences for the employee include disqualification for unemployment benefits and a blemished employment history.
No law in California governs the amount of time an employee can be absent from a job before it is considered job abandonment. Most companies set their own policies and make them clear to employees at the time of hiring. Even though California law doesn't set a standard, three consecutive days of absence without prior arrangement is usually considered sufficient for job abandonment, although some companies may adhere to a stricter standard. Moreover, a shorter period may be appropriate for sensitive positions or those vital for the functioning of the company or institution.
California Leave Laws
California labor laws provide leave entitlements for several classes of employees, including pregnant women, new parents, those who are sick or disabled or caring for a sick or disabled relative, and those who have sustained on-the-job injuries. They also include leave entitlements for employees seeking rehabilitation from drug or alcohol addiction and for such civic duties as voting, jury duty and the duties of emergency responders. Employees who take an authorized leave of absence usually make prior arrangements for that absence, when possible, and must have documentation to support it.
Preventing Unintentional Job Abandonment
It's usually a lack of communication that allows an employee's continued absence to devolve into job abandonment, and there are ways to safeguard against this. It is in the employer's interest to formulate a clear policy regarding absenteeism as well as a formal notification procedure, and to make sure that employees are familiar with it. Even with clear policies in place, extenuating circumstances may prevent an employee from making proper notifications. Attempts to reach that employee by telephone may reveal those circumstances and prevent misunderstandings and disputes. The last resort can be a notification letter with instructions for responding.