Expansion of the California Family Rights Act

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed a historic expansion of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).  Here’s what California employers need to know about the expanded law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2021:

The new law expands which companies are required to provide job-protected family and medical leave.

  • Businesses with as few as 5 employees company-wide must provide 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave under the CFRA to eligible employees.  There is no requirement that the 5 employees be within a 75-mile radius of one another.

The law also expands the reasons for which employees may take leave.

  • Under the prior CFRA statute, in addition to taking leave to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for the employee’s own serious health condition, an employee could only take CFRA leave in order to care for the employee’s parent, child, spouse, or domestic partner.  The new law permits an employee to also take CFRA leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling with a serious health condition (additional covered family members that are not protected under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)).
  • Employers must also grant up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period due to a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States.

The new law also eliminates two CFRA exemptions.

  • If both parents of a new child work for the same employer, said employer can no longer limit the amount of leave taken by the parents to bond with their child to a combined total of 12 workweeks.  Employers are now required to provide up to 12 workweeks of bonding leave to each employee.
  • Employers are no longer able to refuse CFRA leave under the “key employee” exception, which allows employers to refuse reinstatement to salaried employees who are among the highest paid 10 percent of the company’s employees within a 75-mile radius.

Smaller companies that were previously exempt from the CFRA should prepare CFRA leave policies and procedures in order to notify employees of their coverage under the law and to ensure that CFRA leave is properly administered after the law becomes effective.  Large companies must update their leave policies and procedures to reflect the new changes. 

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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