More employees covered by family leave rights this new year
Q: My spouse and I are expecting a baby in a couple of months and we are trying to figure out how much family leave we are entitled to so we can each spend quality time with our newborn. My spouse works at a small office and I work at a medium sized company in Los Angeles. What are our rights?
A: California has good news for you! Senate Bill 1383, which takes effect this year, now requires employers with five or more workers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid time off for family leave.
Before the signing of this new law, under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), only employers with 50 or more employees were required to grant employees up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with their new child, or to care for themselves, a child, a parent, or a spouse. Thus, under the old law, an employer could refuse to grant the request for leave if the employer employs less than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite where the employee is employed.
[Even current law under the New Parent Leave Act (which is different from CFRA) only employers with at least 20 or more employees are required to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child. The employee parent must have more than 12 months of service with the employer, have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, and works at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles.]
The other features of CFRA remain in effect where they are not contrary to the new law. For example, to qualify for leave, employees must have had at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period. Also, an employer may still refuse to grant leave to a salaried employee who is among the highest paid 10% of the employer’s employees; or, if they were granted leave, the employer may refuse to reinstate them to their previous position.
For pregnant employees, an employer is still required to allow those disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition to take a leave of absence for a reasonable time of up to 4 months before returning to work. Here, the employer is required to maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan for an employee who takes that leave.
The reasons for granting leave have also expanded. Now, employees may take leave to bond with their new child, or to care for themselves, their child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner, and their grandparent, grandchild, and sibling. Under the old law, taking care of a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling was not a protected reason for leave.
The new law also requires an employer who employs both parents of a child to grant unpaid protected leave to each employee. This means that if both parents work for the same employer, the employer must provide 12 weeks of leave to each of the parents. The employer may, but is not required to, grant simultaneous leave to both of these employees.
Under protected leave, the employer must return the employee to their previous position once they come back from leave. If an employee is denied the leave, fired, or otherwise treated worse because they requested or took protected leave, they should consult with an experienced employment attorney to protect their rights.
The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]