California Expands Employee Rights to Household and Medical Depart

California employers with only five employees are required to grant their employees family and sick leave rights under a new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 17, 2020. The new law significantly expands the state’s existing family and sick leave entitlements and comes into force on January 1, 2021.

SB 1383 also extends the reasons for sheltered leave covered, and family members can take leave to attend to the law.

Extended eligibility for small employers

Under applicable law, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) (Cal. Gov. Code, Section 12945.2) did not require employers to provide family care and medical leave when the worker seeking vacation was on a job site with fewer than 50 workers worked within a 75 mile radius. Similarly, under the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) (Cal. Gov. Code, Section 12945.6), employers were not required to grant baby bonding leave if the worker seeking leave was on a construction site with fewer than 20 workers within one 75-mile worked radius.

SB 1383 abrogates CFRA and NPLA and extends the requirement to give small employers who were previously uninsured leave. The new law stipulates that employers with at least five employees must grant an otherwise eligible employee for certain covered reasons for a period of 12 months to 12 working weeks unpaid work-protected leave. 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 coverage would have been granted under the Conditions if the employee had continued to work continuously for the duration of the leave.

Insured family members and reasons for vacation

SB 1383 also expands the insured family members and possible reasons an eligible employee may take vacation. In accordance with SB 1383, eligible employees can 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.

Under the previous CFRA law, leave for the purpose of caring for a family member was only possible if the family member was the child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner of the employee.

With the entry into force of SB 1383, all authorized employees will be able to look after grandparents, grandchildren and siblings, contrary to the previous CFRA law.

SB 1383 contains other significant changes. An employer who employs both parents of a child must grant each employee up to 12 weeks vacation. Under current law, the employer only had to grant both employees a total of 12 weeks vacation.

The new law also stipulates that employers must grant unpaid sheltered leave for a period of 12 months to 12 weeks as there is a qualified need in connection with the covered active service or the insured spouse, partner or child of an employee called active duty or parent in the United States Armed Forces.

Finally, SB 1383 does not allow an employer to refuse to reinstate “key employees” as previously permitted by the CFRA in qualified circumstances.

Under SB 1383, employees must continue to meet eligibility requirements, including 12 months of service and 1,250 hours of work for the employer in the past 12 months, to qualify for family and sick leave.

Susan E. Groff and Jennifer S. Grock are lawyers with Jackson Lewis in Los Angeles. © 2020 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.

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