Expansion of Family Rights Act to Small Employers Signed into Law

Legislation that will significantly expand the California Family Rights Act to employers with 5 or more employees has been signed into law and will go into effect on January 1, 2021.

SB 1383 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) will require employers with 5 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of protected leave to qualified employees. It was one of two California Chamber of Commerce-opposed job killer bills to pass the Legislature this year.

Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed the other job killer, AB 3216 (Kalra; D-San Jose), the “right to recall” mandate.

In a news release following the signing of SB 1383 on September 17, the CalChamber stated: “While we are disappointed that Governor Newsom signed SB 1383 and added a new burden to small employers at this time, CalChamber is urging small business owners to become familiar with the new requirements of this law as any mistake could result in a lawsuit.”

“Small businesses who employ 5 to 49 employees should pay close attention to what is now required of them when it comes to this new law and its expansion of California’s mandated protected leave programs,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg.

The new law allows an employee to take protected leave to care for themselves or family members, including grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and parents-in-law, among others. The law also allows parents to take 12 weeks of protected leave for baby bonding following the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. This leave is on top of four months of protected time off already allowed for pregnancy disability leave.

Employers must reinstate an employee on leave to the same position they had when they return to their job. Employees can also take leave in increments, rather than using it in one allocation.

To qualify for the new leave program, an employee must have worked for the company for 12 months or provided 1,250 hours of service.

Small business employers must be mindful of the requirements of this new law because it sets forth a private right of action, where an employee can sue their boss for any inadvertent error made in administering the provisions of the leave program.

SB 1383 was the subject of Episode 87 and Episode 89 of The Workplace podcast, available at www.calchamber.com/theworkplace.

CalChamber will continue to educate small businesses on this new law in the coming weeks and months.