The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) gives most California employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work for health care for themselves or a family member or to bond with a new child after birth, adoption, or placement and for certain qualifying military circumstances. Returning employees are entitled to their same or a comparable position. The CFRA does not cover pregnancy leave since California has a separate Pregnancy Disability Leave law that allows up to four months leave for pregnancy. Effective January 1, 2022, there are some expansions to the CFRA under AB 1033.
Added Family Members
The CFRA allows leave to care for a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner who has a serious health problem and needs care. As of January 1, 2022, Parents-in-law, including the parents of a domestic partner, have been added to the definition of family members whose care is eligible for the leave.
The required leave is for paid sick leave to cover the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or preventive care.
Changes to Small Employer Program
The new law also changes the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) pilot program for small employer family leave mediation. For employers with 5 to 19 employees, either the employer or employee may request mediation in order to resolve a dispute. Under AB 1033, DEFH must notify employees in writing of the requirement to mediate before they file a civil action against their employer. The bill also defines dates for when employees must request mediation and when it must be initiated. The new law also tolls the statute of limitations for any civil action by an employee from the date the employee contacts DEFH’s dispute resolution group under the mediation is complete or found to be unsuccessful.
Finally, the new law entitles any small employer that is a defendant in a civil employment action and did not receive the required notification because of the employee’s failure to notify the DFEH dispute resolution staff prior to filing suit to a stay of any pending action until the mediation is either complete or is deemed unsuccessful.
Employee Handbook Updates
California does not require that employers maintain an employee handbook. However, employers who do have a handbook must include certain policies in it. For example, under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), employers with at least five employees must have written harassment, discrimination, and retaliation prevention policies. Employers who have a handbook must also include a section on the CFRA, defining the leave available and the nature of the family members for whose care it may be used.
Covered employers should be careful to update the relevant CFRA sections of their employee handbook or policies and procedures relating to these changes. The main change would be to add parents-in-law to any section defining family members eligible for leave. Further, employers should also update those sections if the definition is used in the basic sick leave policy.
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If you have any questions related to California employment law or would like to ensure that you are in compliance, you should speak to an attorney as soon as you can. To schedule a consultation with a lawyer, call our office today at (650) 701-7617 or send us an email through our online contact form.