California workers with blossoming families got an extra bit of good news this month. On October 12, Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law expanding the state’s leave of absence rules so that more workers can spend time and bond with their newborn babies. The law, which will take effect January 2018, expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to cover smaller businesses with fewer employees.
While the FMLA/CFRA have long provided job-protected time off for workers in order to spend time with newborns, until now, it’s only applied to companies with at least 50 employees. The new law expands leave protection to California workers employed by companies with 20 to 49 workers. This is a huge deal for women seeking to take maternity leave but who work for smaller employers.
According to an article published on October 12 by the Orange County Register, the expansion will cover 16 percent of the state’s labor force that had heretofore been neglected by existing law.
“This is a great victory for working parents and children in California,” said the bill’s author, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. “With more parents struggling to balance work and family responsibilities…no one should have to choose between caring for their newborn and keeping their job.”
What the Expansion Offers
The new expansion will specifically allow employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in order to bond with newborn children, newly adopted children, or a recently placed foster child. This means an employer cannot fire, fine, suspend or otherwise discriminate against an employee for exercising their right to parental leave – that would be pregnancy discrimination.
While the law doesn’t require the employer to provide the employee’s salary during the leave, the employer is prohibited from refusing to maintain or pay health coverage supplied under a group plan during the leave.
In order for an employee to qualify under the new act, just like under FMLA or CFRA, he or she must meet the following requirements:
- Have Been Employed by the Company for More than 12 Months
- Have at Least 1,250 Hours of Service with the Employer During the Previous 12 Months
What Happens if an Employee is Denied Leave?
While the expansion has yet to go into effect, an employee who is denied their rightful leave under the law will have a number of different options. A good attorney will look at the facts of the case and seek the best outcome for the client. This could involve seeking lost wages, back pay, pain and suffering damages and possibly punitive damages.
An employee who wins their case might be reinstated at their job if wrongfully terminated, or entitled to monetary compensation. If you have questions about changes to the family leave law, or some other employment issue, contact this office for more information.