The California legislature expanded the obligations by employers to provide extended medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) beginning on January 1, 2021.
Currently the CFRA requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. California employers with 20 to 49 employees only need to provide workers with job-protected baby-bonding leave.
Under SB 1383, beginning on January 1, 2021, the CFRA is expanded to apply to all employers with 5 or more employees. There is no requirement that an eligible employee work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees, as had traditionally been required under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the CFRA.
In addition to applying to small companies, the CFRA now expands the definition of eligible employee to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, in addition to parents, children, spouses, and registered domestic partners, which are covered under the FMLA and the current CFRA. The new expansion of the CFRA also provides coverage to key employees, who were exempt under certain circumstances, and provides 12 weeks of baby-bonding leave for both parents, even if they work for the same employer. Currently, if both parents worked at the same company they were required to split the leave.
Not only does the CFRA create an additional burden on small employers who are likely to struggle holding positions open during extended leave, and administering the new requirements with small or non-existent HR departments, it also creates significant additional burdens for larger companies subject to both the FMLA and CFRA. Currently, the FMLA and CFRA contained almost identical eligibility requirements and leave obligations, resulting in the 12 weeks of protected leave running concurrent. However, with the CFRA’s eligibility expansions, the 12 weeks of leave is less likely to overlap. For instance, an employee could take 12 weeks of CFRA leave to care for a grandparent (a reason not covered by the FMLA), and then an additional 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for a parent (a reason covered by both the FMLA and CFRA).
Both small and large employers need to prepare for the new leave requirements starting in 2021. For large businesses this includes redrafting compliant policies and further training on the leave requirements. Smaller businesses should also revamp leave policies, conduct trainings, as well as, prepare for the potential difficulty in covering extended leave periods. If you have any questions about both state and federal leave obligations under this new legislation, please contact Nicholas Roxborough at (818) 992-9999, ext. 222, Drew Pomerance at ext. 212, Michael Adreani, at ext. 234, , or Trevor Witt, at ext. 224.
In the meantime here is to a safe and hopefully healthy beginning to the fast approaching Holiday Season.