Streamlined Procedure for Family Leave Mediation Signed into Law

Governor Gavin Newsom this week signed legislation co-sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce that streamlines procedures in the small employer family leave mediation program under the California Family Rights Act.

AB 1033 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda) establishes a more practical, streamlined procedure for implementing the small employer family leave mediation program established in 2020 by AB 1867 and fixes a drafting error in SB 1383.

In 2020, SB 1383 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) expanded the family leave requirements under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). To alleviate SB 1383’s threat of litigation for small businesses, budget trailer bill AB 1867 of 2020 required the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to establish a small employer mediation pilot program.

All family leave claims brought against small employers with five to 19 employees could be sent to mediation, instead of directly to court. To initiate mediation, an employer or employee must request mediation within 30 days of receiving a right to sue notice alleging violation of family leave requirements.

AB 1033 fixes issues relating to the implementation of the mediation program by:

• Improving how mediation is initiated under the program and ensuring mediation occurs within a timely manner;

• Requiring the DFEH to inform employees of this requirement, including instructions on how to initiate mediation on all right-to-sue notices; and

• Clarifying that a small employer may stay a civil lawsuit or arbitration proceeding to pursue mediation if the complaint should have been subject to the mediation pilot program.

AB 1033 also adds parents-in-law to the list of family members in CFRA for which an employee can use leave to provide care. “Parent-in-law” was added as a defined term to CFRA by SB 1383, but was inadvertently omitted from the list of family members that an employee could take leave to care for identified in Government Code Section 12945.2 (b)(4)(B). That omission left employers uncertain about whether they are required to provide employees time off under CFRA to provide care for a parent-in-law. This bill clarifies that issue.

Staff Contact: Ashley Hoffman

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Ashley Hoffman joined the CalChamber in August 2020 as a policy advocate specializing in labor and employment and workers’ compensation issues. She was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of her efforts on behalf of members. Before joining the CalChamber, she was an associate attorney in the Sacramento office of Jackson Lewis P.C., representing employers in civil litigation and administrative matters, as well as advising employers on best practices, including compliance with labor laws. She previously worked as a litigation associate and a summer associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Los Angeles. She also was a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis and a judicial extern for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena. Hoffman holds a B.A. with high honors in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Michael T. Masin scholar, an editor at the UCLA Law Review, and staff member for the Women’s Law Journal. See full bio