The Catastrophic (CAT) Leave program allows employees who have exhausted their leave credits and must miss work due to a prolonged illness or injury (including that of an eligible family member), or due to a natural disaster, to request CAT leave.

There is no minimum state service requirement for eligibility.

Excluded employees may use catastrophic leave credits for up to twelve continuous months for a single occurrence. Represented employees are limited to one three-month period annually, which may be extended up to six months with the approval of DGS OHR Personnel Officer.

Employees may receive CAT leave in concurrence with State Disability Insurance (SDI), Non-Industrial Disability Insurance (NDI), or Enhanced Non-Industrial Disability Insurance (ENDI), which are wage replacement benefits administered by the Employment Development Department (EDD), to supplement their income and cannot exceed the total amount of their regular gross pay. Eligibility requirements for CAT leave and EDD benefits must be met in order to supplement with donations.

Employees are not eligible for CAT leave if they have filed a Workers’ Compensation claim regardless if the claim is pending, delayed, or accepted.


Catastrophic Leave

Leave taken by an employee who has exhausted his/her available credits. This leave must be based on an illness or injury to the employee, or incapacitated family member who will require care from the employee, or an employee who misses time and is facing a financial hardship due to a natural disaster.

Catastrophic Leave Credits

Leave credits provided to an employee who has been approved for CAT leave.

Excluded Employee

An employee designated as managerial, supervisory, exempt, or confidential.

Family Member

  • Represented employees – Family member is defined in the bargaining unit (BU) contracts.
  • Excluded employees – A family member is the employee’s mother, father, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother or sister, or any person residing in the employee’s household.


A catastrophic illness or injury is defined as an illness or injury that is serious and expected to incapacitate the employee or a member of the employee's family or household, and which creates a financial hardship because the employee has exhausted all eligible leave credits.

Natural Disaster

A natural disaster is defined as an act of nature, such as a flood or an earthquake, that has had an effect on the employee's principle residence and the Governor has declared a state of emergency in the county where the employee resides.

Represented Employee

An employee designated as rank and file.

Donating Leave Credits

Any employee who has sufficient leave credits to transfer, may donate eligible leave credits to an employee approved to receive donations.

Donations may be accepted from employees in any State agency.

For excluded employees and most rank-and-file employees, donations must be a minimum of one hour and thereafter, in whole hour increments. This amount can vary by Bargaining Unit (BU), especially in the case of a natural disaster. Please refer to the applicable BU contract for specific donation criteria.

To donate eligible leave credits, complete the CAT Leave Donation Record (DGS OHR 905) and send to the DGS OHR Personnel Specialist via courier or fax. These donations are irrevocable. If donation form is received after the due date stated on the announcement, the form will be returned to the donor and leave credits will not be transferred.

Eligible leave credits include Annual Leave, Vacation, CTO, Holiday leave credits, and Personal Holiday. Refer to applicable BU contract.

Non-eligible leave credits include Sick Leave, Furlough hours, Personal Development Days, Personal Leave, Educational Leave, Informal Holiday Time, and any other leave without cash value.


The table below depicts the roles and responsibilities for requesting/processing catastrophic leave.

  1. Complete the CAT Leave Request (DGS OHR 903) and obtain signature from supervisor acknowledging request. In cases where the potential recipient is unable to initiate the process, a family member or the department head (or designee) may act on the employee’s behalf. The donated leave may be used upon approval by a department head or designee.
  2. Submits the completed DGS OHR 903 along with the appropriate verification of the injury or illness to the OHR RTW Unit MC. Appropriate verification must include:
    • A brief description and appropriate verification of the illness or injury;
    • Name and relationship of the person incapacitated (if applicable) or other household member;
    • An estimate of the total time needed (beginning date and ending date).

Note: The form will be returned if incomplete and/or medical verification is not provided or if received after the date the employee returned to work. Retroactive CAT leave requests cannot be approved and will be returned.

Employees must use their leave credits if they continue to accrue prior to using donated credits. If the employee returns to work before the anticipated return date and donation requests remain in the holding account, they will be returned to the donor in 30 days.

  1. Reviews CAT leave policy, appropriate BU agreement (if employee is represented), signs the DGS OHR 903 and returns to employee.
OHR Medical Coordinator
  1. Reviews the completed CAT leave request or modification and medical verification to ensure consistency with the applicable BU agreement and policy eligibility requirements.

  2. Notifies the Personnel Officer of findings to include the verified actual leave balances and calculation of the additional time needed.

  3. If CAT leave is approved by Personnel Officer, prepares CAT leave solicitation memorandum to the requesting employee, employee’s supervisor, Office Chief, and Personnel Specialist. Solicitation will be distributed via email or as indicated by the employee on the DGS OHR 903. If employee requires more leave time than originally donated, the MC reviews request and medical verification for consistency with program eligibility requirements and prepares a modified solicitation.

  4. If the request is denied, an explanation will be provided in writing.

Personnel Officer
  1. Reviews the CAT leave request and medical verification, including the applicable BU agreement and policy eligibility requirements.

  2. Approves or denies CAT leave request.

Personnel Specialist
  1. Receives a copy of the approved DGS OHR 903.

  2. Upon receipt of the Catastrophic Leave Donation Record (DGS OHR 905), ensures that donated leave credits are applied to the recipient’s leave bank after the recipient’s leave bank is exhausted and are reflected as a deduction from the donor’s leave bank in a timely manner.

  3. Completes recipient’s PAL, recording actual time worked and earned credits used. For leave taken, records CAT leave if no accumulated credits remain.

  4. Upon completion of applying donated leave credits, notes the adjustment made on the donation form and distributes a copy to the donor and recipient as verification of the credits transferred. If the donor elects to remain anonymous, ensures the confidentiality of the donor.

  5. Files the original DGS OHR 905 in recipient’s medical file.

  6. If employee returns to work as planned, returns unused donations to donor with a notation as to why donations were not processed.

  7. Provides donation information to the employee, supervisor, and those who have a business need to know.


Responsible Control Agency

  • California Department of Human Resources

Laws and Regulations

  • California Code of Regulations, section 599.913, 599.925, 599.925.1 
  • Government Code section 19991.14

Other Resource Materials


Return to Work Unit

Department of General Services
Office of Human Resources

707 3rd Street, 7th Floor
West Sacramento, CA 95605