California’s New Parent Leave Act–What is Required?
California has just enacted a new law allowing some employees to have extended time off to care for their newborn children. Prior to the enactment of this new, both the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) and the California version, known as the California Family Rights Act, gave employees who have worked at least one year and accrued at least 1,250 hours, the right to take unpaid 12 weeks leave for bonding time with a new child. But the law only applied to companies with 50 or more employees.
Now in California, effective January 1, 2018, Gov. Brown signed an extension of these rights called the Parent Leave Act (Government Code Section 12945.6). It now requires companies with 20 or more employees to grant the 12 weeks of bonding time with a child within one year of that child’s birth. It has the same prerequisites, namely employees that have worked at least 12 months and the leave is still unpaid.
As before, during the leave period, the company must continue to pay its regular share of healthcare premiums for employees.
But what if both parents are employees of the same company? In that case, the company can restrict the total leave for both parents for a combined total of 12 weeks. On the other hand, the company may give each parent what is called simultaneous leave. The parents would have two options: 1) one parent could take, for example, six weeks and the other the next six weeks or 2) both could take the leaves simultaneously for the total of 12 weeks.
There is also a new provision for mediation. Frankly, it makes little sense and does not really give additional rights to businesses. The initial bill proposed by Gov. Brown was rejected because of the potential negative impact to small businesses. The Governor wanted a mediation provision. Now, if there is noncompliance with the Act and the employee brings an action against the company, that company within 60 days of a right- to-sue notice from the DFEH, can force nonbinding mediation and during that period a potential lawsuit is held in abeyance. Not much of a benefit to the company, since it only briefly delays the actual lawsuit process due to the mediation.
The employee can also “tack-on” additional time under a company’s PTO or sick leave policy. For example, if an employee wants to use one week of paid PTO, he/she could use 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the Act and then an additional one week of paid leave.
As usual, upon the employee’s return, they must be reinstated to the same position with the same benefits.
Important Note: This new law only applies to newborn child bonding. It does not apply to leave to care for the employee his/herself or of a parent or spouse who has a serious health condition. The latter only applies to employers with 50 or more employees.
For example, if you have 50 or more employees, the new law has no effect because you are already covered under the existing FMLA state and federal rules.
If your company has less than 20 employees, it is only required to grant leave for child bonding and for no other purposes.
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