Keenan Briefings


SB 1383: Bill Expands Categories of Employees Eligible for Leave Under the California Family Rights Act

September 29, 2020

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 1383 (Chapter 86, Statutes of 2020), expanding the classes of employers subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) as well as the categories of employees who are eligible for a leave under its provisions. This new law will go into effect on January 1, 2021.

Smaller Employers Covered

When it goes into effect, the new law will require employers with at least 5 employees to grant an employee request to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family care and medical leave. Until now, CFRA only applied to employers with fifty or more employees, as well as all public agencies. An employee is eligible for leave if he or she has had 180 days of service with the employer.

Expanded Definitions

CFRA currently provides employees with the ability to take leave to care for a “family member,” defined as a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. It also allows an employee to take leave because of a “qualifying exigency” related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States, as specified in Section 3302.2 of the Unemployment Insurance Code.

Effective January 1, 2021, an employee will be able to take CFRA leave to care for or due to a qualifying exigency related to a domestic partner (as defined in section 297 of the Family Code), the child of a domestic partner, a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law.

Potential Impact

These new definitions bring the provisions of CFRA (which provides job-protection for unpaid leave) in line with California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) law, which provides up to eight weeks of partial wage replacement benefits for a worker who takes time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or domestic partner or to bond with a minor child.

SB 1383 makes changes to CFRA that give it a broader applicability than the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). For most covered leaves, California law allows an employer to run CFRA and FMLA leave concurrently. However, as a result of SB 1383, CFRA will offer 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave for scenarios not covered by federal law. According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee analysis of the bill, “in theory, a worker could take unpaid leave for one of the newly CFRA-covered events – such as caring for a sick grandparent – and then take additional leave for an FMLA-covered event, such as for the employee’s own medical issues.” The committee report goes on to observe, “However, there are a number of reasons why this much unpaid leave in a 12-month period is unlikely to occur, except in some extreme scenarios. First, most employees simply cannot afford to take this amount of unpaid leave in a single year. Second, data on paid family leave usage, the wage replacement program whose leave provisions track those of this bill, shows that its quite rare (around 4% of claims) for workers to take leave that does not conform with FMLA.”

Employers should ensure to review and revise their written leave policies to comply with these new provisions.

Keenan & Associates is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.