How to Navigate California Leave Laws

By Kris Janisch
Published May 24, 2021

How to Navigate California Leave Laws

Employers should also look to run leave concurrently when possible and remember that if leave extends beyond a certain period, check for other leaves that may be applicable.

How do you navigate California’s leave laws?

The complexity of leave laws in the state was the topic of a recent GovDocs webinar, California Conundrum: Leave Laws in the Golden State.

Facilitated by Jana Bjorklund, Senior Counsel and Director, Employment Law and Compliance, the 45-minute webinar covered the myriad leave laws in California and how employers should apply them.

Below are basics on the major leave laws in California, and what employers should look out for when applying leave laws.

Find the full webinar recording online.

California Paid Sick Leave

Starting with paid sick leave in California, it can be used for the employee’s own or a family member’s illness, diagnosis and preventive care, as well as domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

Other specifics of the law include:

  • Applies to employers with at least one employee
  • Employees who work for same employer for more than 30 days within a year are eligible
  • One hour of paid sick leave accrued for every 30 hours worked
  • Max use cap – 24 hours/year
  • Max accrual cap – 48 hours/year
  • Employers can frontload 24 hours paid sick leave at beginning of every year or by 120th day of employment
  • Employees can begin using sick leave 90 days after start of employment

“You can always be more generous, these are what you’re required to provide,” Bjorklund said.

COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

California Leave Laws WebinarEarlier this year, California tweaked it COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave law.

Providing 80 hours of paid sick leave, the law applies to employers with 25 or more workers. It is in effect through Sept. 30, 2021.

Covered reasons for use include:

  • Employee quarantined or advised to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking diagnosis
  • Employee attending appointment to receive COVID-19 vaccination
  • Employee experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after vaccine and unable to work
  • Caring for family member who must quarantine due to COVID-19
  • Caring for child whose school/daycare closed due to COVID-19

“It’s a one-time thing,” Bjorklund said. “Once they use all 80 hours, they’re done.”

Paid Leave Management. Simplified.

California Family Rights Act

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), employees are afforded unpaid, job-protected leave. Employers should note that the definition of family member is more expansive than it us under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The CFRA applies to employers with five or more workers. Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off in 12-month period. Covered employees must have worked 1,250 hours and been employed for 12 months, though it does not have to be consecutive.

Eligible reasons for use include:

  • Birth, adoption or foster placement of child with employee
  • Leave to care for covered family member with serious health condition
  • Leave because of employee’s serious health condition
  • Leave because a family member is called to active duty or related to family member’s active duty in the military

Notably, the CFRA does not cover pregnancy, because…

Pregnancy Disability Leave

California also has pregnancy disability leave. It too us job-protected but unpaid.

Applying to employers with five or more workers, the law allows for up to four months of leave. Employees are eligible to use it from the employee’s first day of employment.

However, it can be taken intermittently, and employers can require certification, like the FMLA.

Disability Insurance Program

Meanwhile, California also has a disability insurance program, which Bjorklund called “super generous.”

While it is paid, it is not job protected, though other applicable laws may provide job protection depending on the circumstance.

The program applies to all employers and provides up to 52 weeks of leave with partial wage replacement.

California Paid Family Leave

Employment Law Compliance LinkedIn GroupCalifornia was the nation’s first to implement a paid family leave program.

It is paid but not job protected. However, other applicable laws may provide job protection.

Applying to all employers, it provides eight weeks of leave with partial wage replacement.

Eligible reasons include:

  • Care of covered family member with serious illness
  • Bonding with new child through birth, adoption or placement
  • Care for family member due to qualifying military reason or deployment

Other Leave Types

Of course, there are other types of leave in California employers need to monitor:

  • San Francisco Paid Parental Leave
  • Cities with paid sick leave
    • Berkeley
    • Emeryville
    • Los Angeles
    • Oakland
    • San Diego
    • San Francisco
    • Santa Monica

Several cities and counties also have COVID-19 paid sick leave, including Los Angeles and Sonoma counties, as well as local vaccine paid leave specific to grocery and retail pharmacy workers.

That’s not all. Other leave laws in California include:

  • Kin care leave
  • Military leave
  • Voting leave
  • Jury duty
  • School activities leave
  • Organ/bone marrow donor leave
  • Disaster relief volunteer leave

“A lot of these miscellaneous requirements are lesser known and can become an issue,” Bjorklund said.

When Leave Laws Overlap

The myriad types of paid leave in California can be cumbersome for employers to manage, especially at the local level.

“They are not in lockstep with California,” Bjorklund said.

State laws are generally the floor of what an employer must provide, and companies must apply the most generous.

Employers should also look to run leave concurrently when possible and remember that if leave extends beyond a certain period, check for other leaves that may be applicable.

“What gets complicated is how to coordinate all these leaves … Just because there are so many of them. And don’t forget FMLA,” she said.

Employers should also consider drafting a paid sick leave policy, train managers and beware of the potential for abuse of leave laws.

Check out the full webinar for more information and specific examples.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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