Will California give time off to more employees?

Bill would require small employers to provide leave.

While the world deals with a global pandemic that has put record numbers of individuals out of work, the California Legislature has passed and sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) a bill that would expand unpaid, job-protected leave to employees of even small employers -- that is, employers with at least five employees.


On Monday, the California Assembly passed S.B. 1383, which would expand the protections under the California Family Rights Act. If the Governor signs the legislation into law, it will take effect on January 1, 2021.

The bill would require employers with five or more employees to provide the same type of leave that until now has been required only of larger employers -- ones with 50 or employees within a 75-mile radius of a particular work site.  Under the CFRA, eligible employees receive up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, or the placement of a child in foster care; to care for their own serious health condition; or to care for a seriously ill family member.

Large employers affected, too

S.B. 1383 would also expand the CFRA in ways that would affect employers of all sizes. For example, the definition of "family member" under the CFRA would be expanded to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and adult children. The bill would also eliminate the provision allowing employers to require parents who work for the same employer to share a total of 12 weeks of leave to bond with a baby. In addition, the bill would provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave due to a qualifying exigency related to a call to covered active duty or to deal with the absence of a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent called into active duty.

Despite these significant changes, the eligibility requirements under the CFRA would remain the same. To be eligible for the expanded leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, including at least 1,250 hours worked in the previous 12-month period.

Is it a good idea?

Proponents of S.B. 1383 claim that many low-wage employees and people of color, who often work for small businesses, do not take advantage of the State’s paid leave program for fear of job loss, and that the expanded job protections would promote public health, boost economic recovery, and support working families. 

But opponents call the bill a job killer and argue that it would impose higher costs and additional administrative burdens on employers, and subject small businesses to costly litigation. Moreover, critics say, small businesses will find it difficult to complete their work if one or more employees are on extended 12-week leaves of absence with guaranteed reinstatement at the end of the leave.

We will have to see whether the Governor signs this bill into law.

California employment laws keep employers up at night, wondering what is coming next. There always seems to be something. From new statutes to new regulations to new court decisions, we will keep you up to date on developments in the areas of wage and hour, discrimination, leaves of absence, retaliation, class actions, PAGA, and arbitration. We’ll also provide you with practical information on how to update your policies and employment practices. Please subscribe to keep current.


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