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Governor Newsom signed legislation that will greatly expand the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) in a manner that will impact both small and large California employers. The CFRA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during each 12-month period for purposes of family and medical leave. 

Senate Bill 1383 expands CFRA to apply to employers with five or more employees and expands the scope of “family members” for whom employees can take leave to include many additional categories. It will go into effect on January 1, 2021. The first of the year will be here before you know it, so the time to take action is now.

Expansion to Cover Smaller Employers

The current CFRA (modeled largely after the federal Family and Medical Leave Act) applies to private employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the worksite. SB 1383 expands CFRA to now apply to private employers with five or more employees and eliminates the requirement that employees work within 75 miles of the worksite.

Expanded Definition of “Family Members”

CFRA currently allows employees to take unpaid leave for a number of purposes, including to care for a “family member” with a serious health condition. CFRA currently defines “family member” to include a minor child (unless the child is an adult and a dependent child), a spouse, or a parent.

SB 1383 significantly expands the definition of “family members.” First, the list of family members is expanded to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and domestic partners. Second, the definition of “child” is expanded to cover all adult children (regardless of whether they are dependent) and children of a domestic partner.

Therefore, even larger California employers will have to provide leave to employees who are caring for a wider swath of family members with a serious health condition.

Other Changes To Existing Law

SB 1383 also makes two other important changes to the CFRA. First, it deletes the provision of law that specifies that if both parents work by the same employers, the employer is not required to provide more than a total of 12 weeks for leave in connection with the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. Therefore, such an employer may now be required to provide 12 weeks to both employees in that situation.

In addition, SB 1383 deletes language from the CFRA that authorizes an employer to refuse reinstatement to salaried employees who are among the highest 10% of the employees and where the refusal is necessary to prevent substantial and grievous economic injury

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