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California Workplace Leaves of Absence Rights

Posted January 2023 by S. Ward Heinrichs

California Workplace Leaves of Absence Rights

In recent years, the California legislature has expanded workplace leaves of absence protections. This year, 2023, is no exception. The following highlights new California leaves of absence laws.

This year, businesses that employ five or more employees must provide 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave. Until now, the law did not require employers to offer bereavement leave. Under Government Code §12945.7, an employee may take bereavement leave when a “family member” dies. A family member is defined as a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. To be eligible, the employee must work for at least 30 days for the business. If the employer has a paid bereavement leave policy, then the employee will receive paid leave according to the policy. Otherwise, an employee has the right to use sick leave, vacation, or other eligible paid leave while on bereavement leave. An employer can require the worker to provide documents, within 30 days of the first day of leave, that prove a family member has passed away.

Within the last few years, the legislature has changed the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) in many different ways. In 2020, the CFRA applied to businesses that had 50 or more employees. In 2021, the legislature required the CFRA to apply to employers who had only 5 employees. Additionally, during 2021, the family members for whom an employee could take leave dramatically increased. In 2020, an employee could take CFRA leave to help a sick spouse, child, parent, or to bond with a baby, adopted child, or a child placed by foster care. In 2021, the lawmakers added: grandchildren, grandparents, siblings, and parents-in-law.

This year, an employee may add to that CFRA list a “designated” person. That person should be a blood relative or someone who is similar to a blood relative in the eyes of the employee. The employee may designate that person on the day the employee asks for leave. The employer can require that the worker only designate one person for every 12-month period.

The Healthy Workplace Healthy Families Act (HWHFA) was enacted in 2016. It required employers to give workers paid sick leave. That law allowed employees to take paid leave when they are sick and when a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling is sick. Just like the CFRA, that list of persons has expanded to include a “designated” person, but the definition of designated person is broader than that definition under the CFRA.

In contrast to the CFRA, the HWHFA only requires that the employee identify the designated person at the time the employee asks to take sick leave. It does not require that the designated person be a blood relative or someone who is similar to a blood relative. However, the employer can require the employee’s choice of the designated person to not change for 12 months, after which, the employee may designate another person.

As of January 1, 2023, employees now have the right to leave work, or decline to start a shift, during an emergency. An employee may take emergency leave in the following situations: 1) When natural forces create disaster conditions or conditions of extreme peril; 2) When criminal acts create a disaster or extreme peril; 3) When an evacuation order is issued for an employee’s workplace, home, or a school of the employee’s child. Further, an employer must allow employees to use their cell phones during an emergency to get updates, get assistance, and to communicate with loved ones.

Based in San Diego, California the Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs represents both employers and employees in almost all areas of labor law. He and his firm litigate cases that have been filed in many different parts of California. Visit www.BestEmploymentAttorneySanDiego.com

Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
4565 Ruffner Street, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92111
(858)408-7543 (fax)

Employment Law Office of WARD HEINRICHS

4565 Ruffner St. Suite 207 San Diego 92111


The Attorneys at the Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs are advocates on behalf of clients throughout CA, including San Diego, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Irvine, Newport Beach, Burbank, Santa Monica, Compton, Pasadena, San Fernando, Long Beach, Glendale,El Centro, Brawley, Imperial, Calipatria, Blythe, Calexico, Indio, Palm Desert, Palm Springs, Hemet, Beaumont, Cathedral City, San Bernardino, Riverside, Corona, Lake Elsinore, Temecula, Perris, Big Bear, Sun City, Ontario, San Clemente, Ocean Side, El Cajon, Escondido, Chula Vista, Los Angeles and Orange County.

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