In a major victory for California’s working families, Governor Newsom recently signed SB 1383, which expands the California Family Rights Act to cover smaller employers and will ensure that millions of Californians can now access Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance benefits without risking their jobs.
Below are five key things that every worker should know about the new law:
1. Starting January 1, 2021, Californians who work for an employer with 5 or more employees will have the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for their own or a family member’s serious health condition, or to bond with a new child under the California Family Rights Act.
Under current law, only those who work for employers with at least 50 employees are entitled to take leave to care for their own or a family member’s serious illness, and only those who work for employers with 20 or more employees are have the right to take leave to bond with a new child. Workers are still required to have worked for their employer for at least one year and 1,250 hours in the year prior to their leave in order to qualify.
2. Nearly all employees in California are eligible for Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance benefits.
These employee-funded programs provide partial income-replacement benefits when employees are taking leave from work to care for themselves or their loved ones, or to bond with a new child, regardless of immigration status. However, these programs do not provide employees with the right to take the leave and return to their job after. This left millions of California workers without the ability to access these benefits for fear of being fired. SB 1383 closes this gap by extending the right to take job protected leave to nearly 6 million Californians.
Click here for more info on Paid Family Leave, and here for more info on State Disability Insurance.
3. This law expands the definition of family for purposes of taking job protected leave from work to care for a seriously ill loved one.
This change will allow eligible workers to take job-protected leave to care for seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children, and parents-in-law. Previously, only minor (and adult dependent) children, parents, spouses, and registered domestic partners were covered. This expanded definition of family will now align the family members you can take job protected leave to care for with those that you can already receive Paid Family Leave benefits to care for.
4. Covered workers will have the right to take job-protected leave to address a military exigency.
In 2018, California expanded the Paid Family Leave program to allow an employee to receive benefits when they take leave to deal with a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the employee’s family member. Workers will now have the right to take job protected leave for these same reasons under the California Family Rights Act.
5. Employers must return the employee to their same position and must continue health insurance benefits during the leave.
Once the employee’s leave is over, the employer must return the employee to their previous position. If an employee is denied the leave, fired, or otherwise treated worse because they requested or took the leave, they can file a claim with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
Click here to go to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing website.
For more information about your legal rights, call the Work and Family Helpline at 1-800-880-8047 for free, confidential advice in multiple languages.
* Helen Bass is a law clerk at Legal Aid at Work who is currently pursuing her law degree at Stanford Law School.