New California Bill Requires Employers to Offer Bereavement Leave

Farella Braun + Martel LLP

Farella Braun + Martel LLP

AB 1949, a bill passed by the California legislature and awaiting Governor Newsom’s signature, would require California employers to offer five days of bereavement leave to employees each time they lose a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. Though the leave may be unpaid, employees may choose to use accrued vacation, sick leave, or other paid time off options such as personal days available to the employee.

This new law may even impact employers with existing bereavement leave policies as prior law did not mandate that employees be allowed to use sick leave for bereavement time off. Employers with combined vacation and sick leave policies, commonly known as “Paid Time Off” or “PTO,” would likewise be required to allow employees to use PTO for bereavement leave. 

Both full-time and part-time employees are eligible for this new bereavement leave provided they worked for the employer for at least 30 days and the employer employs at least five employees, including both full- and part-time employees. Employers can request documentation evidencing the family member’s death (such as a death certificate, published obituary, or other written verification of death, burial, or memorial services), but they must keep any information and documentation confidential. The leave must be completed within three months of the date of the relative’s death.

Nothing in AB 1949 would prohibit employers from offering a more generous bereavement leave policy, such as paid leave or a longer leave period. Governor Newsom has until September 30, 2022 to sign the bill. If the bill is signed, covered employers will need to update their policies or employee handbooks to account for this new employee benefit.

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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