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CA Expands Coverage Under the California Family Rights Act

Late last week, Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383 (“SB 1383”) into law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2021, significantly expanding coverage of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) (Cal. Gov. Code Section 12945.2).

Pre-Existing Law

Under pre-existing law, CFRA requires employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to grant a leave of absence to eligible employees of up to 12 workweeks in a 12-month period for permitted purposes, including to bond with a new child or to care for themselves or a child, parent, or spouse. The baby bonding requirements of the CFRA were expanded effective January 1, 2018 under the New Parent Leave Act (“NPLA”) (Cal. Gov. Code Section 12945.6) to apply to employers with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius for eligible employees. Additionally, under pre-existing law, leave for purposes of caring for a family member was available only if the family member was the employee’s child, a parent, spouse, or domestic partner. Further, under pre-existing law, where both parents worked for the employer, the employer was only required to grant a combined 12 weeks of leave for baby bonding purposes under the CFRA and New Parent Leave Act.

Expanded Eligibility to Small Employers

SB 1383 repeals CFRA and NPLA and expands the obligation to provide leave to small employers not covered before. The new law requires employers with at least 5 employees to provide an otherwise eligible employee with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period for certain covered reasons. The employer must maintain and pay for the employee’s coverage under a group health plan for the duration of the leave at the level and under the conditions coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the leave.

Additional Covered Family Members and Expanded Reasons for Leave

SB 1383 also expands the covered family members and potential reasons for which an eligible employee may take leave. Under SB 1383, eligible employees may take leave to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.

With the enactment of SB 1383, all eligible employees will be able to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, unlike under the pre-existing law.

SB 1383 requires an employer that employs both parents of a child to grant up to 12 weeks of leave to each employee.

The new law also requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-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. Lastly, SB 1383 does not permit an employer to refuse reinstatement of “key employees” as was previously allowed by the CFRA under qualifying circumstances.

Lastly, under SB 1383, employees will still need to meet eligibility requirements, including 12 months of service and 1,250 hours worked for the employer in the previous 12-month period, to qualify for family and medical leave.

Next Steps

The CFRA’s provisions have changed—even for larger employers—so all employers with 5 or more employees should add or update their CFRA policies in their employee handbooks. Employers who were not previously subject to the CFRA should spend some time understanding how this new law will interact with their current practices. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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