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Changes to the California Family Rights Act

Do You Know About the Latest Changes to the California Family Rights Act?

Until now, under both the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and its federal counterpart, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), employees have been able to obtain leave on behalf of only a limited number of family members. Under the new law, employees would also be able to request leave on behalf of their adult children, grandparents, grandchildren and siblings with serious health conditions. Employers should be aware of these additional family members on whose behalf an employee may request leave.

The new law also eliminates the requirement that employees perform work at job sites with fifty or more employees within a seventy-five mile radius. This means that employees who work at smaller satellite offices will be entitled to CFRA leave. As these changes take effect on January 1, 2021, employers should revise their policies to ensure that they meet the new requirements for CFRA leave.

How Does the New Law Affect You as an Employer?

Traditionally, employers could often rely that they could run both the FMLA and CFRA twelve-week leave concurrently as the laws were, in large part, identical. The common exception was pregnancy disability because that is specifically excluded from CFRA and otherwise covered by more expansive Pregnancy Disability Leave laws. A unique exception no longer! Given the new expansion of qualifying reasons for which an employee may request leave under the CFRA, an employee could potentially take both CFRA and FMLA leave during the same twelve-month period for different qualifying reasons.

For example, an employee may be entitled to twelve-weeks of leave based on one of the new qualifying reasons under the CFRA such as caring for an adult child with a serious health condition, and thereafter request additional leave under the FMLA. As leave for the care of an adult child with a serious health condition does not necessarily qualify as leave under the FMLA, the CFRA and FMLA periods of leave would not run concurrently. Employers should be prepared to understand how these new qualifying reasons for CFRA leave impact the amount of leave an employee may be entitled to take.

In addition, the new law also repeals the New Parent Leave Act, which provides new parent bonding leave to employees of employers with twenty or more employees. As the CFRA already included new parent bonding provisions, the expansion of coverage to employers with five or more employees made the NPLA redundant.

The California legislature has amended the CFRA so that it applies to employers with as few as five employees. This significant change means that many small businesses must now plan on their employees taking up to twelve weeks of CFRA leave, in addition to becoming familiar with how to administer leave under the CFRA.

Summary of Changes Under New Law 

Prior Version of CFRA      New Version of CFRA
- Applies to the care of minor children, adult dependent children, parents and spouses with a serious health condition        - Expands qualifying reasons to include the care of grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, domestic partners and adult children with a serious health condition 
- Applies to employee if the employer employs fifty or more employees within seventy-five miles of the worksite where that employee is employed - Eliminates this provision
- Applies to persons who employ 50 or more persons - Applies to persons who employ 5 or more persons
- Two spouses employed by the same employer are required to share twelve-week period of leave for purposes of bonding with a newborn child - Eliminates this provision
- ‘Key Employee’ Exception - Eliminates this provision
- Repeals New Parent Leave Act
- Expands qualifying reasons to include leave for a qualifying exigency related to the call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the U.S. Armed Forces

As a result of these significant changes, all California employers with 5 or more employees must revise their related policies and manuals. Not sure how to proceed further?  Give our office a call and we are available to discuss this in detail with you to ensure you are moving forward in compliance with this and the many other new employment laws. 

Ask an Expert 

For more information contact Daniel O'Neil-Ortiz,  a member of MS&A's Employment Law team. Click here to connect with Daniel on LinkedIn.

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