California Paid Family Leave Act Expansion Causes Employers Confusion

On July 1, 2014, there will be some changes to the California paid family leave benefit.  Earlier this year, Governor Jerry Brown signed the expansion of this benefit into law.

The Paid Family Leave Act came to fruition in 2004.  This allowed California employees who took time off work to care for an ill parent, child, spouse or domestic partner, or to care for a newborn or newly-adopted child to receive up to six weeks of pay through the Employment Development Department.

The expansion of this law extends the paid leave to cover care for ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and parents-in-law.  The rate of pay that an employee can receive is that of a person who received disability benefits.  One thing to note for both employers and employees, however, is that the paid family leave law does not provide employees the right to take job protected leave.  Family leave, as covered under the FMLA and the CFRA is not available to all California employees.  The laws pertaining to guaranteed reinstatement pertain to employers with 50 or more employees.  Also, to qualify for this type of leave the employee needs to have been employed for a year, must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave, and must of course, as mentioned above, work in a location where at least 50 employees are employed within a 75 mile radius.

FMLA/CFRA protected leave covers those employees that take leave to care for an ill parent, child, spouse or domestic partner.  While the expansion of the Paid Family Leave Act covers paid leave covers that taken to care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in laws, this is not covered under the FMLA/CFRA provisions.  Time off to care for an ill relative is not a “reasonable accommodation” under the disability discrimination laws.  If employees to not quality for leave under FMLA/CFRA provisions, they have no right to job-protected leave unless the employer they work for has additional provisions in their employment policies.