California Expands CFRA Leave to Employers with 5+ Employees

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill (“SB”) 1383, which expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) family and medical leave law. This Bulletin discusses these changes, which take effect January 1, 2021.

Understanding The California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave for eligible employees to care for themselves and a wide variety of family members. More specifically, under the current CFRA:

  • An eligible employee may take an unpaid leave to bond with an adopted or foster child or to bond with a newborn.
  • An eligible employee may take unpaid leave to care for a parent, registered domestic partner, or child with a serious health condition.
  • CFRA leave may also be taken for the employee’s own serious health condition.
  • Full-time employees may take leave of up to 12 work weeks in a 12-month period. Part-time employees may take leave on a proportional basis.
  • The leave does not need to be taken in one continuous period of time.
  • An employer may require a 30-day advance notice of the need for a CFRA-qualifying leave. When this is not possible due to the unexpected nature of the qualifying event, notice should be given as soon as practicable.
  • The employer may require written communication from the health-care provider of the child, parent, registered domestic partner, or employee with a serious health condition stating the reasons for the leave and the probable duration of the condition. However, the health care provider may not disclose the underlying diagnosis without the consent of the patient.

 What’s New

 Most importantly, SB 1383 expands the range of covered employers under the CFRA to employers with just 5 or more employees. Previously, a covered employer had to have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the workplace where the leave-seeking employee worked.

The new law also expands the range of family members for whose care CFRA leave may be taken. Effective January 1st, employees may take CFRA leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

If both parents work for the same employer, SB 1383 eliminates the current requirement that the parents split the 12-week leave time. Effective January 1st, each employee-parent will be entitled to his/her own 12-week leave.

Finally, SB 1383 makes it an unlawful employment practice for any employer to refuse to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period due to a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States.

What Employers Should Do Now

With just 24 days before SB 1383 takes effect, employers that were not previously covered under the CFRA should take immediate steps to become familiar with the Act and revise their employee handbook and policies to reflect the change. Employers already covered by CFRA should understand the changes and revise their handbook and policies accordingly.

Employers seeking to better understand this new law should contact their employment law professional.

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