California Extends Family Leave Requirements to Smaller Employers

Image result for family leaveEffective as of January 1, 2018, Senate Bill 63 provides that employers with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius must grant an employee’s request to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.  In addition, employers must provide continuance of group health coverage during the leave period on the same basis as would have been provided had the employee continued to work.  These coverage costs can be recovered if the employee fails to return from the leave and the failure is for a reason other than a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the employee’s control.  Employers must refrain from firing, refusing to hire or discriminating an employee based on the employee’s request for protected leave and from otherwise interfering with or restraining an employee’s rights provided by this law.  When both parents are employed by the same employer, the employer may limit the total amount of leave to 12 weeks and may, but is not required to, provide simultaneous leave to both employees.

California’s existing family leave law, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), already provided these rights but limited the exercise of these rights to employees who work for employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.  SB 63’s expansion of the CFRA to employers with as few as 20 employees means that an estimated 2.7 million employees previously disqualified from the CFRA’s protections may now enjoy the same parental leave rights.

The bill also creates a pilot mediation program under the auspices of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing for parental leave disputes which will expire on January 1, 2020.

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