The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) permits eligible employees to take protected leave to care for certain family members. Until recently, this benefit only applied when the employee was caring for a close relative. But thanks to new legislation, many employees can now take protected leave to care for family members previously not covered by the law, as well as non-relatives.
While this expansion of leave rights is certainly good for employees, understanding California’s ever-evolving employment laws can be difficult for workers. At Minnis & Smallets, our employment attorneys are available to help workers in the Bay Area and throughout California better understand their rights and take appropriate action when those rights are violated.
Under CFRA, eligible employees of a California business with five or more employees are permitted up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition.
In September 2022, California lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 1041 (AB 1041), which was enacted on January 1, 2023. AB 1041 expanded family leave rights to include caring for a “designated person.” Under CFRA and the new law, a “designated person” is defined as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Employees are not required to designate the person in advance and can identify the individual needing care at the time they request leave. Employers are permitted to limit the employee to one “designated person” in a 12-month period.
AB 1041 also includes changes to paid sick time regulations in California. The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 provides employees who have worked at the same company for at least 30 days in one year with a specified number of paid sick days. These days may be used for diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition or preventative care for the employee or certain family members.
Under previous laws, eligible family members included a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling. Now, thanks to AB 1041, paid sick leave may also be taken to care for a “designated person.” In this context, a “designated person” is simply an individual identified by the employee when they request leave.
One thing the new law does not provide is a clear definition of what is meant by “the equivalent of a family relationship.” It is unlawful for an employer to refuse an eligible employee’s request for leave or paid sick time as long as the employee meets the requirements for such leave. However, employers and workers may disagree over who should be considered equivalent to a family member.
All too often, employers fail to recognize employees’ rights in California, including the right to appropriate time off to care for themselves or a loved one. When these rights are denied unlawfully, the attorneys at Minnis & Smallets help employees take legal action to hold employers accountable. If you’ve been wrongly denied family leave or paid sick time, call Minnis & Smallets employment attorneys today or contact us online to learn how we can help.
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