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New laws have expanded employees’ sick, bereavement leave rights

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2023 | Employment Law

While it may not seem like it at your particular workplace, California employees have more rights and benefits than those in many other states. A number of new laws that took effect at the beginning of this year increased both.

Two of these laws expanded California employees’ ability to take time to deal with personal obligations. Let’s take a brief look at those.

The definition of a “designated person” has expanded

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an employee can take a leave to care for a “designated person.” This used to be defined as anyone “related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”  

That definition has been broadened to anyone an employee names when they request the leave. They would, however, only be able to designate one person over the course of 12 months.  This would let people take time off to help a close friend who might be having surgery and doesn’t have any family to help care for them, for example.

Unpaid bereavement leave cannot be denied

While many businesses allow employees to take a specified number of days off for bereavement leave when a loved one dies, it hasn’t been a legal requirement until this year. With the new law, employers must allow anyone who has worked for them for at least a month to take up to five days off if a family member dies. A family member is defined as a “spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.”

The bereavement leave doesn’t have to be taken all at once, but it must be taken within a three-month period. This can be helpful for employees who may have responsibilities to handle immediately after a death but perhaps want to attend an out-of-town memorial service for a loved one a bit later.

You can’t always count on your employer to know the law – particularly if it’s a small business without its own Human Resources department. Unfortunately, sometimes they know the law but count on employees not to know it or to assert their rights. If you aren’t able to get the leave and other rights and benefits to which you’re entitled, it can help to have legal guidance.