California Expands CFRA Bonding Leave Coverage

by Marti Cardi, Esq. - Senior Compliance Consultant and Legal Counsel

& Gail Cohen, Esq. - Assistant General Counsel, Employment and Litigation

October 18, 2017


California has enacted the New Parent Leave Act to amend the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).  Effective January 1, 2018, employers with 20 or more employees will be required to provide 12 weeks of leave for bonding following the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child.  To be eligible, an employee must have worked for the employer:

  • For 12 months of service;
  • For 1250 hours in the 12 months immediately prior to the start of the requested leave; and
  • At a worksite with 20 or more employees within 75 miles.

Currently, CFRA applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, and the third eligibility requirement is employment at a worksite with 50 or more employees within 75 miles.  The new law will extend coverage to employees of smaller employers and to employees of large companies who work at smaller worksites.

The law does not apply to an employee who is subject to both CFRA and the federal FMLA, so an employee cannot double-dip on leave rights just because the employee is employed at a worksite that qualifies by having both 20 or more and 50 or more employees within 75 miles.

Regulations Pending.  The Act does not yet have supporting regulations.  However, it directs the Fair Employment and Housing Council (which promulgates regulations that implement CFRA and other California anti-discrimination laws) to incorporate existing CFRA regulations by reference to govern leave under the Act to the extent that those regulations are within the scope of, and not inconsistent with, the Act.

This means that topics on which the Act is silent are likely to be interpreted and governed by existing CFRA regulations.  Examples include CFRA regulations that require employees to take bonding leave within one year of the new child’s birth or placement and that require employers to allow intermittent bonding leave in minimum two-week increments plus two instances of shorter leave.

Additional details:

  • As with CFRA, the New Parent Leave Act requires employers, upon or before the commencement
    of leave, to provide the employee a guarantee of reinstatement to the same or a comparable position
    after the leave.
  • If both parents work for the same employer:

o   The employer can limit the total amount of bonding time for the parents to a
combined 12 weeks; and

o   The employer may but is not required to permit the employees to take bonding leave
at the same time.

  • The employee may elect to use accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, other accrued paid time off,
    or other paid or unpaid time off negotiated with the employer, during the period of parental leave.
  • The employer must maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan at the same
    level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had
    continued to work rather than take leave.
  • The New Parent Leave Act does not affect an employee’s ability to take pregnancy disability
    leave is the employee is otherwise qualified for that leave.
  • The new law authorizes a parental leave mediation pilot program. Under the program, within
    60 days of receipt of a right-to-sue notice related to an alleged violation of the new Act, an
    employer may request all parties to participate in the department’s Mediation Division Program.
    In such case, the employee cannot pursue a civil action until the mediation is completed.  The pilot
    program is set to expire on January 1, 2020.

The text of the New Parent Leave Act (California Government Code § 12495.6) can be viewed here.

MATRIX CAN HELP! Questions about how legislative changes or court opinions could impact your business?
Want to learn more about our benefits and absence management solutions? Matrix provides leave, disability,
and accommodation management services to employers seeking a comprehensive and compliant solution
to these complex employer obligations. We monitor the many leave laws being passed around the country,
watch the courts and governmental agencies, and specialize in understanding how they work together.

For leave management and accommodation assistance, contact your Account Manager or local
Reliance Standard Sales Representative or contact us at [email protected].