As of September, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) has officially been expanded. Under Assembly Bill (AB) 1041, the state has widened employees’ rights to take leave to care for their families as of January 1st, 2023.
Starting in the new year, employees may be able to use their CFRA leave to care for a “designated person,” which is a significantly broader ruling than the CFRA’s previous provisions. In addition, Governor Newsom signed AB 1949 into law in September, adding bereavement leave to the CFRA.
These changes may sound small, but they demonstrate California’s continued dedication to protecting and expanding workers’ rights. Keep reading to learn how the CFRA impacts you and what to expect from these new bills.
What Is the CFRA?
The CFRA is California’s state equivalent of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The Act is designed to give workers access to time off necessary to care for their families without risking their jobs. Under the Act, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off in any 12-month period. The Act covers workers who need to take time off due to:
- Serious health conditions: This includes any mental or physical health problem, surgery, or injury that requires inpatient care, more than three days away from work, or ongoing medical treatment for incurable conditions. Employees may be required to provide a medical note to their employer to take leave.
- Pregnancy and delivery: Pregnancy is specifically covered by the CFRA, allowing mothers to take time off without losing their employment to recover from labor.
- Child bonding leave: Parents may also use the CFRA to take time away from work to bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child within 12 months of joining the family.
- Qualifying exigencies for active duty military: An employee may take time away for specific reasons related to their own or an immediate family member’s active duty military service.
- Caring for a family member: The CFRA allows workers to take time away to care for their family if they face serious health problems.
The bills signed in September make two critical changes to the Act. First, AB 1041 expands the family members workers may request time off to care for. Currently, you can take time to provide care for your children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, or spouse or registered domestic partner. In January, this will be changed to allow workers to care for a “designated person.” This person can be “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is equivalent to a family relationship.” You will be permitted to designate the person when you request leave.
In addition, bereavement leave will be protected. AB 1949 will guarantee workers the right to take up to five days off following the death of a family member. This bereavement leave is separate from standard CFRA or sick time. Bereavement leave will cover immediate family only.
During this time, your employer may not terminate your job. When you come back to work, you’re entitled to return to the same or an almost identical position. Your pay and other benefits will also remain the same when you return.
Are You Eligible for CFRA Leave?
Before requesting CFRA leave, you must ensure you’re eligible under state law. As of last year, the Act applies to companies with five or more employees and all public institutions, so your employer is most likely held to this law. They are required to provide you with CFRA time off if:
- You’ve been employed by the company for at least 12 months before the start of your requested time off
- During that time, you’ve worked at least 1250 hours for your employer, or a minimum of 24 hours a week.
It’s important to note that you can only receive 12 weeks of time off under the Act. Suppose you have already taken 12 weeks and you have another qualifying event. In that case, you are not eligible to take additional time off without your employer’s approval, and your job will not be protected.
What to Do If Your Employer Denies You Leave
If you meet the qualifications to take CFRA time off, your employer cannot deny you that time. If they deny your claim, terminate your position, retaliate against you for taking leave, or otherwise violate the CFRA, you have the right to take action.
- File a complaint with HR: Notify your HR department that your rights have been violated. They may help you receive the leave you’re owed or return to your vacated role. If not, filing the complaint demonstrates that you attempted to resolve the situation internally before taking other action.
- Consult an experienced attorney: Next, talk to a lawyer about your situation. Qualified employment law attorneys will help you determine if your rights have been violated and build your case.
- Notify the CRD: Your attorney will help file a report with the California Civil Rights Department (formerly known as the Department of Fair Employment and Housing) to ensure they are notified of any violations.
- Take legal action: Your lawyer will also help you determine if you need to take legal action and how to approach the situation to protect your employment and receive compensation for your losses.
Pursue Equitable Leave With Expert Legal Counsel
The CFRA is already one of the most flexible state-mandated leave programs in the country. In 2023, it will become even more valuable, allowing people to take the time they need to care for their loved ones, no matter who they might be. You have the right to take CFRA leave as long as you meet the appropriate criteria, and your employer may not penalize you for it.
If you’re struggling to have your CFRA request acknowledged, if your request has been unjustly denied, or if you’ve suffered from retaliation for taking leave, get help. At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, we can help you receive the time you’re owed. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can help you exercise your right to care for your family and protect your employment.