California Governor Gavin Newson on Sept. 17 signed Senate Bill No. 1383, which scraps the current California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and eliminates the California New Parent Leave Act in favor of a new CFRA with expanded protections and coverage for employees.
The newly minted CFRA, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, is a drastic expansion of the existing CFRA. It makes an increased amount of leave for an increased list of reasons available to more employees by lowering the threshold that determines who is a covered employer.
The current CFRA is modeled after the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and provides up to 12 weeks of protected unpaid leave for employees for qualifying reasons. Those reasons are often the birth of a child, bonding with a new child, adoption of a new child, to care for a close relative with a serious illness, or to care for one’s own serious illness.
Here are some highlights of the new law that employees and their employers can expect:
- Employers with five more employees are covered under this law. Existing law set the threshold for covered employers at 50 or more employees employed within 75 miles of the requesting employee’s worksite.
- Grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings are added to the list of family members for whom an employee can use their leave. Current law only provides that employees can use leave to provide care for immediate relatives such as a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, or parent.
- The definition of a child is expanded. The new law provides that a child who needs care may be a domestic partner’s child and a child with a serious health condition regardless of how old the child is. This removes the existing stipulation that a child over 18 who needs care is only a qualified reason if they are otherwise incapable of self-care due to a disability.
- Bonding leave for new parents will be expanded. If two parents work for the same employer, the new CFRA will allow each of them 12 weeks of parental leave. Previous law allowed employers to insist that parents of newborns can only share 12 weeks between them, rather than each taking their own period of leave.
- Key Employees will be protected. The current CFRA allows an employer to refuse reinstatement of a key employee on otherwise protected leave if the individual is among the top 10 percent of highest-paid employees and their return to work would cause a substantial and grievous disruption to the employer’s operation. The new CFRA will eliminate this possibility.
- Military exigency will be a qualifying reason. Previously, only FMLA covered military exigencies. The new CFRA will add this provision and provides that registered domestic partners are added to the list of relatives for whom an employee can take military exigency leave.
Do You Intend to Take Leave?
Although employees in California will soon enjoy an expansion of leave rights under the expanded CFRA, disputes among employers are inevitable. If after Jan. 1, 2021, you believe that your employer is failing to comply with the new provisions of this law, reach out to Limonjyan Law Group for assistance.