I operate a fairly small business (we have 35 employees), and I recently had an employee come to me asking to take a few weeks off to care for his father. He says there’s a new law in California that allows employees of smaller companies time off to care for their family members. Am I obligated to give this employee the time off he’s requesting?
The short answer is “no.” However, California did recently enact a law that does require businesses of your size to provide up to 12 weeks off for a different reason.
The “California Parental Leave” law (New Parent Leave Act) has some similarities to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. The new law requires employers with 20–49 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to its employees to bond with a newborn child, or a child placed through adoption or foster care.
To be eligible, the employee asking for the time off must have worked for the employer for at least one year, have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the request for the time off, and work within 75 miles of at least 20 other employees of this employer.
As a result, your employee is not entitled to take time off to care for his father, but would be eligible to take time off if he became a new parent. The time off under California’s New Parent Leave Act must be taken within one year of the birth, adoption, or placement through foster care.
Partial Wage Replacement
Your employee may have been confused by California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program, a state-sponsored insurance program within the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program. PFL covers employees at organizations of any size. PFL provides employees with partial wage replacement for up to 6 weeks in any 12-month period while absent from work to care for a seriously ill or injured family member or bonding with a minor child within one year of the child’s birth or placement in connection with foster care or adoption.
Like SDI, PFL does not create the right to a leave of absence. PFL does not require you to create a leave of absence policy or guarantee reinstatement rights other than those already mandated by law. If you withhold SDI contributions from employees’ paychecks, you are also withholding for PFL.
As with SDI, PFL is administered by the state Employment Development Department (EDD), and employees apply directly to the EDD for benefits. The EDD is also responsible for the process of confirming if the absence qualifies for benefits. The EDD can require medical and other documentation in support of the claim.
More information about PFL and the eligibility requirements is available to California Chamber of Commerce members in the HR Library on HRCalifornia.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.