Existing California law, known as the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), requires California employers with at least 50 employees to offer an eligible employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period (a) for the birth of a child (aka “baby bonding leave”), the adoption of a child, or the placement of a child in foster care, and/or (b) to care for him/herself or a family member with a serious health condition.
In contrast, under existing California law, smaller employers with less than 50 employees are generally required to provide an eligible employee with only 6 weeks of job-protected leave for such purposes under California’s paid family leave (PFL) law.
Expanded Family Leave Benefits for Employees at Smaller Companies
On October 12, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 63 which extends CFRA’s more generous family leave benefits to employers with 20 to 49 employees (about 16% of the state’s labor force).
As a result, employees at smaller companies with 20 to 49 employees will be entitled to 12 weeks of job-protected leave (a) for the birth of a child (aka “baby bonding leave”), the adoption of a child, or the placement of a child in foster care, and/or (b) to care for yourself or a family member with a serious health condition.
In addition, SB 63 requires employers with 20 to 49 employees to:
— Maintain the health insurance coverage of an employee who takes a leave of absence pursuant to the law.
— Return the employee to the same or comparable position after returning from a leave of absence pursuant to the law.
— Retaliating against or otherwise taking any adverse action against an employee who inquires about or takes leave pursuant to the law.
To be eligible for leave pursuant to the new law, an employee must:
— Have worked for the employer for more than 12 months;
— Have performed at least 1,250 hours of service for that employer during the prior 12-month period; and
— Work at a worksite where there are between 20 and 49 employees
Mediation Pilot Program
In addition, SB 63 requires the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to create a parental leave mediation pilot program. Under this new pilot program, an employer may require an employee who has requested a “right to sue” letter from the DFEH to participate in mandatory mediation prior to filing any lawsuit. The employers’ request must be made within 60 days of the employer’s receipt of the employee’s “right to sue” notice.
SB 63’s pilot mediation program ends on January 1, 2020 unless re-authorized by the legislature.
What Should Employers Do?
SB 63 becomes effective on January 1, 2018. Between now and then, California employers with 20 to 49 employees should review their employee handbooks and leave of absence policies and forms to ensure compliance with this new law.
You can read the full text of SB 63 here.