California Expands Family Rights Act in 5 Major Ways

December 22, 2020
A father with daughter at a desk with a laptop

What's New for California Family and Medical Leave?

Amendments to the California Family Rights Act will have a significant impact on leave in the state. On Jan. 1, 2021, these changes will:

  • Widen the circle of employers who must offer family and medical leave
  • Expand the list of relations for whom an employee can take leave
  • Grant leave for an urgent need related to a family member’s active military duty
  • Ensure 12 weeks each of child-related leave for parents working for the same employer
  • Not allow an employer to refuse to reinstate qualifying “key employees”

1) More Small Employers Included

Before Jan. 1: Under CFRA, employers didn’t have to provide family care and medical leave for an employee at a worksite with fewer than 50 employees in a 75-mile radius. Nor did the New Parent Leave Act require them to provide baby-bonding leave for an employee at a worksite with fewer than 20 employees in a 75-mile radius.

After Jan. 1: The new law, SB 1383, repeals both CFRA and the NPLA, requiring more small employers to provide leave. Employers with at least five employees must grant up to 12 workweeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period for certain covered reasons. The employer has to maintain the employee's coverage under a group health plan for the entire leave. That coverage must be provided at the same level and under the same conditions as if the employee had stayed in the job continuously.

2) More Family Members Make the List

Before Jan. 1: The prior CFRA statute permitted leave to care for a family member only if the family member was the employee's child, parent, spouse or domestic partner.

After Jan. 1: SB 1383 expands the list of covered family members. Eligible employees may now take leave to bond with a new child or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse or domestic partner.

3) Military Need Added

Before Jan. 1: The old law did not include military exigency as a reason for leave.

After Jan. 1: The new law requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave during any 12-month period for reasons related urgent military need. SB 1383 covers the active duty or call to active duty of an employee's spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

4) Leave for Parents Working for the Same Employer Increased

Then: Under the previous law, if both parents of a child worked for the same employer, that employer only had to grant both employees a combined total of 12 weeks of leave.

Now: SB 1383 requires an employer who employs both parents of a child to grant up to 12 weeks of leave to each employee.

5) Reinstatement Rules Updated for the Highest-Paid 10%

Before Jan 1: The law exempted employers from job reinstatement for salaried employees in the highest-paid 10%. That meant an employer could refuse to rehire these “key employees” if they sought back their jobs for qualifying reasons.

After Jan 1: An employer can’t refuse to reinstate key employees to their job when they request it under approved circumstances.

What Hasn't Changed

Under SB 1383, employees will still need to meet eligibility requirements to qualify for family and medical leave. That includes 12 months of service and 1,250 hours worked for the employer in the previous 12-month period.

Compare California With Other States

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Legislative Activity