Law Expands California Family Rights Act to Small Employers

Law Expands California Family Rights Act to Small Employers

A new law that takes effect in January 2021 will expand the California Family Rights Act to cover even small employers—those with five or more staff.

The law, which requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid a year for family and medical leave purposes, currently only applies to employers with 50 or more workers.

Besides expanding the law to cover entities with five or more employees, the new law also expands the scope of “family members” for whom employees can take leave to help care for them.

The new law takes effect January 1, 2021, so it’s important that employers who are currently not held to account under the law to prepare to offer unpaid family or medical leave if they have an employee who asks for it.

The CFRA, largely modeled on the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), also only applies to employees that live within 75 miles of their worksite. The new law eliminates that requirement as well.

The main changes

The main thrust of the new law, SB 1383, is to expand the CFRA to cover smaller employers as mentioned above.

CFRA currently allows employees to take unpaid leave for a number of purposes, including to care for a family member with a serious health condition. The law defines a family member as a minor child, a spouse or a parent.

Starting 2021, the CFRA will expand that definition to include:

  • Siblings,
  • Grandparents,
  • Grandchildren, and
  • Domestic partners.

Also, the law expands the definition of “child” to include all adult children (regardless of if they are dependents) and the children of a domestic partner.

These new definitions apply to all employers covered by the law, even existing ones.

Other changes

SB 1383 also makes the following changes:

  • It deletes a provision that if both parents work for the same employers, the employer is not required to provide more than a total of 12 weeks for leave in connection with the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. So starting January 1, 2021, an employer in that position would be required to provide 12 weeks to both employees.
  • It deletes language from the CFRA that allows employers to refuse reinstatement to salaried employees who are among the highest-paid 10% of the firm’s employees and where the refusal is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury.
  • It creates a mismatch with the FMLA that could theoretically allow an employee to take 12 weeks of unpaid CFRA leave to care for one of the new categories of family members as discussed above and then take another 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for themselves, child or spouse. This mismatch takes places because the FMLA does not cover siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and domestic partners and their children.

The takeaway

If you are a smaller employer who was not previously covered by the CFRA, if you have more than five employees you will need to prepare for this new law.

It’s best if you can have your HR manager work with an employment law attorney to develop policies and procedures so your firm can administer these new leave requirements should a staff member ask for CFRA leave.

Contact shannon@vma.bz to get connected to an employment law attorney.

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