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Small Business Owners Prepare for Expansions to the California Family Rights Act

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If you are a California small business operator, you’re probably preparing your business for the new changes that go into effect New Year’s Day 2021 relating to job-protected leave. Governor Newsom signed SB 1383 in September 2020 to extend family care and medical leave under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”). Under CFRA, eligible employees can take leave to provide care for their own serious health conditions and those of specified family members without fear of losing their job.

Effective January 1, 2021, California small business employers with five or more employees will be required to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period for the birth of a child; for placement of a child in the employee’s family for adoption or foster care; for the serious health condition of the employee’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent, and grandchild; and for the employee’s own serious health condition. To be eligible, an employee has to meet the following criteria:

  • Worked for the employer for at least 12 months of service.
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period prior to taking CFRA leave.

Employers must continue to pay their share of health insurance premiums during the leave and guarantee that the employee has the right to return to their same or a comparable position in accordance with the employee’s right to reinstatement.

Under this bill, an eligible new mother can take up to 29? weeks of combined pregnancy-disability leave and CFRA baby bonding leave after childbirth. In instances where both new parents work for the same employer, each parent is entitled to receive 12 weeks of CFRA baby bonding time.

Employers may require the employee to provide medical certification if leave is requested to care for the employee’s own illness or that of a family member, but not for baby bonding time. They may also require a 30-day advance notice of the need for a CFRA-qualified leave.

Caution should be exercised to avoid making the common mistake of confusing a “serious health condition” with a “common ailment”. A "serious health condition" is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves at least one of several criteria specifically defined in the family leave regulations.

Small business operators must provide information regarding CFRA provisions to their employees and post the information in a conspicuous place where employees gather in the workplace, as well as in employee handbooks. With the extended provisions going into effect January 1, 2021, employers should review existing policies and procedures now and make any necessary modifications so they are in compliance with the new provisions of the law.

Violating CRFA rights can have dire consequences for a business. Employees may seek damages by filing a complaint or pursuing litigation if the business is not compliant. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) may issue an accusation and litigate cases where the business is not compliant. Remedies may include reinstatement, back pay, reasonable attorney’s fees, damages for emotional distress, and administrative fines.

Do you need help with business and HR advice? Business Consumer Alliance can help. Check out our website for information on how to protect your business.

About Business Consumer Alliance Business Consumer Alliance (BCA) is a non-profit company that started in 1928. The broad purpose of BCA is to promote business self-regulation. BCA's mission is achieved by assisting consumers in resolving complaints with businesses and using that complaint information, along with other relevant information such as customer reviews, to forecast business reliability. With community support, BCA can identify trustworthy and ethical businesses and warn the public to avoid unscrupulous businesses whose purpose is to defraud the marketplace. BCA also helps businesses promote themselves by providing services and tools to protect their business and reach out to their customers. BCA obtains its funding from member businesses who support the mission and purpose of the organization and who agree to abide by high standards of ethical business practices.