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CA Senate Bill 1383: Understanding the Expansion to the California Family Rights Act

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2020 | CFRA

As the New Parent Leave Act (“NPLA”) exits gracefully and terminates on January 1, 2021, the newly enacted SB 1383 expanding the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) takes its place permanently. The expanded CFRA law was signed into law on September 17, 2020 and will be effective on January 1, 2021.

The new expansions set forth in the SB 1383 delivers a hard reality to thousands of businesses previously not familiar with CFRA rules. As of this moment, CFRA only requires employers with at least 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to provide 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during a 12-month period to employees.

SB 1383 now requires unpaid protected leave to any employer with five or more employees. This will undoubtedly cause a confusion for small to mid-sized businesses that never had to comply with CFRA previously.

Further major expansions to CFRA rules also include the following:

  • Eligible employees will be able to take CFRA family medical leave to care for a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, siblings, spouse, or domestic partner. (CFRA did not previously cover grandparent, grandchild or siblings.)
  • CFRA has allowed eligible parents to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave for baby bonding within one year of birth or adoption. The law also allowed for parents to combine pregnancy-disability leave with CFRA baby bonding leave time, so a new mother could take up to a total of 29 and 1/3 weeks of leave. SB 1383 carries forward this combination leave and requires employers with five or more employees to provide the combined leave periods to their employees as well.
  • SB 1383 also addresses the issue of when both new parents work for the same company in regard to the 12-week baby bonding leave. Even if both new parents work for the same company, SB 1383 requires the company to give 12 weeks leave to each new parent. (The law previously only allowed a total of 12 weeks for both new parents working for the same company.)

As a good reminder, CFRA is unpaid leave, however, the employer has a duty to continue to pay its share of the employee’s health care insurance premiums during the entire leave. The leave is protected, meaning after employees return from leave, employees have certain entitlements and protections including reinstatement to the same or comparable job position.

Finally, on a related note, to help mitigate issues with the new law, the Governor also signed AB 1867, which is an experimental mediation program for employers with 5 to 19 employees.  Prior to filing suit regarding CFRA claims, an employer may insist on a non-binding mediation for the employees CFRA claims. The mediation option is only effective until January 1, 2024, unless it proves itself effective and is later extended.

Should your business have any concerns or questions about the new CFRA changes, or other employment matters, please contact an attorney at Sagaser, Watkins & Wieland PC who can assist your business.