We all have families. With the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continuing, many California employees must provide emergency care for family members, often at the expense of working.  Strong worker protections guaranteeing protected leave to care for an ill family member can be the difference between safely taking temporary leave and letting a loved one struggle on their own out of fear of losing a job.  No employee should have to choose between their family and their job.

With this in mind, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB1383 on September 17, 2020, which dramatically extended job protections to millions of California small business workers to care for themselves, or their relatives.   The new law – a significant expansion of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) – expands California employee protections in several key respect, including, but not limited to: 1. Expanding CFRA coverage to workers at companies employing at least five people, 2. Expanding the types of relatives employees California workers may invoke to take CFRA leave; 3. Expanding the definition of children; and, 5. Adding an employee’s, or their partner’s, military leave as a qualifying reason for CFRA leave.  These changes are set to take effect January 1, 2021, and will be codified at Government Code section 12945.2, et seq.

California Family Rights Act Dramatically Covers More California Employees & Employers

Before the recent changes, the California Family Rights Act only applied to employers who employed 50 or more employees.  Now, the California Family Rights Act covers private and public state and municipal employers who employ at least five people.  Additionally, the Legislature removed the previous threshold requiring the employer to employ 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius for an employee to qualify for CFRA leave.  As a result of these changes, more California employees are eligible for CFRA.

Now, a qualifying employee becomes eligible for CFRA protected leave where:

  1. The employee has worked for the employer for at least months, consecutively or nonconsecutively; and,
  2. The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer for the twelve months before taking protected CFRA leave.

Please note that flight deck and cabin crew member employees must meet additional thresholds for CFRA qualification.

California Family Rights Act Now Qualifies More Family Members

The new California Family Rights Act expands the types of qualified relatives entitling an employee to CFRA protected leave.  Previously, an employee was only entitled to protected leave to provide care to a child, parent, or spouse with a serious health condition.  Now, an employee is entitled to protected leave to provide care to a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner with a serious health condition.

California Family Rights Act Now Qualifies More Children

In addition to qualifying more family member types, the CFRA expands the definition of children to include biological, adopted, foster, stepchildren, and the child of one’s domestic partner. Now, an employee can take leave to care for the child with a serious health condition, regardless of age.

California Family Rights Act Now Covers Military Leave

The new California Family Rights Acts adds a new entitlement for protected leave.  Employees may take CFRA protected leave due to a qualifying exigency related to their own or a spouse’s, domestic partners, child’s, or parent’s active duty or call to active duty in the United States Armed Forces. Previously, the CFRA lacked protected leave for military exigency.

California Family Rights Act Exclusions & Limitations Erased

California Family Rights Act Key Employee Exclusion Eliminated

The CFRA’s key employee exclusion, often invoked as a defense to the right to reinstatement, has been eliminated.  Previously, an employer could deny reinstatement of an employee taking CFRA leave where the employee was among the highest-paid 10% employees, the denial was necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury to operations. The employer notifies the employee of its intent to deny reinstatement.  Now, all California employees have a right to reinstatement.

California Family Rights Act Bonding Leave Limitation Eliminated

Existing California Family Rights Act limitations on parental leave to bond with a new child have been eliminated.  Under the new CFRA, employees working for the same employer are entitled to twelve weeks of protected leave.  Before this change, the employer could deny one employee the right to protected bonding leave.  Now, both employees are entitled to twelve weeks protected bonding leave.

The California Family Rights Act Protects California Employees

The California Family Rights Act covers employers conducting business in California that employ five or more people.  Under the California Family Rights Act, a qualifying employee may take leave to provide care for themselves, or a qualified family member with a serious health condition.  Additionally, employees are entitled to protected leave for military exigencies. The CFRA makes it an unlawful employment practice to refuse to grant a request for protected CFRA leave.  During the duration of the CFRA leave, the employee shall retain employee status with the employer without a break in seniority or benefits. The employer shall guarantee the same or comparable employment upon the employee’s return from protected CFRA leave.  Employers may not obstruct an employee’s right to apply for CFRA. Further, employers shall not retaliate or discriminate against an employee for exercising any CFRA rights.

If you believe that your employer has violated the California Family Rights Act, contact Astanehe Law.  Astanehe Law has experience representing California employees who have been discriminated against and suffered retaliation because they exercised their right to CFRA protected leave.  Astanehe Law represents clients on a contingency fee basis.  Call us at (415) 226-7170 or email us at contact@astanehelaw.com.