California Family Rights Act Significantly Expanded by New Legislation
Commencing January 1, 2021, California school and community college districts and county offices of education will have to provide 12 workweeks of unpaid family leave with benefits for more reasons and to more employees. On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383, significantly expanding the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) in line with recent changes to paid “kin care” leave.
CFRA will now:
- Apply to eligible public employees regardless of the size of the agency;
- Allow eligible employees to take leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings with serious health conditions;
- Permit eligible employees to take leave to care for a child with a serious health condition regardless of the child’s age or dependency status;
- Require employers to grant 12 workweeks of childbonding leave to both eligible parents even if both are employed by the same employer, regardless of marital status; and
- Match the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) by allowing leave for qualifying exigencies related to a family member’s call to active duty and deployment.
Employees CFRA-Eligible Regardless of Size of Public Agency
CFRA has always covered California public school and community college districts and county offices of education, regardless of size. It will now apply to any private employer employing five or more employees. More significantly for small public agencies, SB 1383 eliminated the rule that in order to be eligible for CFRA leave, an employee must work at a worksite where the employer employed at least 50 employees within 75 miles of that worksite. As of January 1, in order to be eligible, a public employee need only have been employed for 12 months and have actually worked 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to taking the leave.
CFRA Leave Available to Care for Additional Family Members
SB 1383 also added more family members to those for whom an employee may take CFRA leave. In addition to parents, spouses, and children, eligible employees may now take CFRA leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings with a serious health condition. It also removed the requirement that the children be minors or dependent adults. An eligible employee will now be able to take CFRA leave for an adult child with a serious health condition, including pregnancy.
These changes align with Labor Code § 233, which allows employees to use some sick leave to care for additional family members. However, CFRA will not cover leave to care for a parent-in-law, which is a reason for leave under § 233.
Each Parent Entitled to 12 Workweeks of Bonding Leave
In addition, under prior law, if both new parents worked for the same employer, the employer was only required to provide a combined total of 12 weeks of CFRA baby-bonding leave to both parents. SB 1383 removed that restriction and the law now requires that an employer provide 12 weeks of CFRA baby bonding leave to each parent.
CFRA Available for Qualifying Exigencies Related to Active Duty Deployment of Family Member
Finally, the law adds a new reason for leave, matching a provision in the FMLA. Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks for “qualifying exigencies” relating to a parent, spouse, or child’s call to active military duty and deployment. This would cover reasons such as meeting with lawyers to update wills, making new child care arrangements, and participating in deployment-related base activities.
These changes will have a significant impact on public education employers. They will now be required to provide up to 12 workweeks of leave each 12-month period for new reasons and to employees who were previously ineligible.
Significantly, the law adds reasons to take CFRA leave and expands eligible employees that are not covered by FMLA. Thus, it is possible that an employee could take 12 workweeks of CFRA leave and 12 workweeks of FMLA leave separately in a 12-month period.