California Extends Parental Leave to Smaller Employers

While I am aware that Clarus is based in Houston, Texas and majority of our clients are also in Houston, we have some clients that operate offices in California. I also wanted to share this information because it is important to know what is happening in other states that might pave the way for our state to adopt similar laws.

The New Parent Leave Act requires California employers with 20 or more employees to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for employees to bond with a new child. California enacted the New Parent Leave Act on October 17, 2017 and is effective January 1, 2018. Prior to this, California’s parental-bonding requirements only applied to employers with 50 or more employees.

Here are the highlights you need to know:

An employer is subject to the new law if:

  • They have at least 20 employees working within 75 miles of each other
  • Is not subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Employee’s are Eligible under the New Parent Leave Act if:

  • They have more than 12 months service for the employer
  • Have worked at least 1250 hours with the employer in the past 12 months
  • Is stationed at a worksite in with the employer has at least 20 employees within 75 miles.

In order to take leave under this act the employee must take the leave within the first year after the birth of a child, adoption of a child, or placement of a foster child in the home. The employer may require 30 days advance notice when the need for leave is foreseeable. If advance notice is not possible the employee may be required to provide notice as soon as practicable and the employer must respond to the leave request no later than five days after receiving it.

The employer must provide the employee with a guarantee of employment in the same or a comparable position following the leave. If an employer fails to provide this guarantee they may be deemed to have unlawfully refuse the employees leave request. Please note, similar to FMLA, the employer is not required to pay an employee while he or she is on leave under this act. The employee may use, and employers may require employees to use, accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, other accrued paid time off, or other paid or unpaid time off negotiated with the employee during the parental leave.

While on parental leave the employer is still required to maintain and pay for continued group health coverage and the coverage has to be continued at the same level as prior to the leave. The employer may recover the costs of maintaining the health benefits if the employee doesn’t return to work following the leave for any reason other than a serious health condition or circumstances beyond the employees control.

Under the New Parental Leave Act employers are prohibited from:

  • Interfering with, restraining or denying an employee’s rights under the law
  • Discharging, fining, suspending, expelling, refusing to hire or discriminating against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the law, or for providing information or testimony in any inquiry or proceeding related to the rights guaranteed under the law.

If an employer violates the act the affected employee may file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).
The DFEH may order the employer to:

  • Hire, reinstate, or upgrade the employee, with our without back pay
  • Refrain from committing any further violations
  • Pay a fine up to $25,000 for any discrimination

The DFEH may allow the employee the right to file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations under the act. Until January 1, 2020, employers have the right to request all parties participate in mediation before the employee is allowed to file a lawsuit.

We recommend you download the complete Compliance Bulletin for all the details regarding California’s extended parental leave for smaller employers.