California Legislature Advances Two CFRA Expansion Bills

California Senate CFRA Expansion Bills

The California Legislature is continuing to march through its regular legislative calendar, and two bills in particular could dramatically alter the California Family Rights Act (CFRA): SB 1383 and AB 3216. Each bill has recently passed its respective house of origination.

Currently, the CFRA provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for eligible employees of employers with 50 or more employees. CFRA leave may be used for an employee’s own serious medical condition; to care for a specific family member’s serious medical condition; or for baby bonding due to the birth of a child, or adoption of a child, or placement of foster child. Eligible family members are limited to child, parent and spouse (including registered domestic partner.) In most cases, the CFRA would run concurrently with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which also provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for similar reasons.

On July 2, 2020, the California Senate passed SB 1383, which seeks to broadly expand the CFRA’s coverage and eligibility criteria. Most importantly, SB 1383, which was originally part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal, would expand CFRA coverage to all employers with five or more employees. In addition to dramatically increasing employer coverage, SB 1383 also expands the list of eligible family members for whom employees may use CFRA to include adult children, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.

CalChamber has identified SB 1383 as a Job Killer bill due to the significant administrative burden the bill places on small employers, as well as increased litigation threats for small businesses trying to reopen during COVID-19 while simultaneously administering a complex and technical leave of absence. This bill also has the potential to provide employees at larger employers with up to 24 weeks of job-protected leave due to changes that would make the CFRA significantly different from the FMLA. These changes would create circumstances in which an employee’s CFRA leave wouldn’t run concurrently with the FMLA, thus expanding the length of job-protected leave.

SB 1383 now moves to the California Assembly for consideration.

On June 18, 2020, the Assembly passed AB 3216, which provides, among other things, for additional eligible reasons for taking CFRA leave due to a “state of emergency.” Many of these reasons track with the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides emergency paid sick leave and expanded FMLA for COVID-19-related reasons. AB 3216, however, adds additional eligible reasons, greatly expanding the scope of the leave to include simply being a member of a vulnerable population who’s at high risk, or living with or being responsible for a family member who’s part of the vulnerable population.

CalChamber has also identified AB 3216 as a Job Killer bill in part due to similar reasons as SB 1383. AB 3216 is currently in the Senate for consideration.

If passed together, AB 3216 and SB 1383 would so greatly expand the CFRA that it would be an incredible burden on small employers already suffering difficulties in reopening due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matthew J. Roberts; J.D.; Employment Law Counsel/Subject Matter Expert, CalChamber

For more COVID-19-related federal, state and local resources, visit the CalChamber Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage and access additional COVID-19-related HRWatchdog blogs.

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