On September 29, 2022, Governor Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 1949 (“AB-1949”), which guarantees employees five (5) days of bereavement leave following the loss of a family member under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).
Beginning January 1, 2023, the new FEHA provision will apply to employees working for private companies and state employees, including those working for cities and counties. The new law does not apply to employees covered by most valid collective bargaining agreements (“CBA”) if the CBA expressly provides for five (5) days of bereavement leave.
To be eligible for mandated bereavement leave, employees must have been employed for at least 30 days prior to taking leave due to the loss of a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.
The five days of bereavement leave may be taken consecutively or intermittently and completed within three (3) months of the death of the family member.
Upon request, within 30 days from the first day of bereavement leave, employees may be required to provide employers documentation such as a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or governmental agency.
Employee confidentiality must be maintained consistent with other leave requests and must not be shared except as necessary with internal personnel or counsel, or as required by law.
Creates New Unlawful Employment Practice
Under the new law it will be an unlawful employment practice under the FEHA. Employers may not refuse to grant an employee time off; refuse to hire; discharge; demote; fine; suspend; expel; or otherwise discriminations against an employee for requesting or taking bereavement leave consistent with the new law.
Impact of Mandated Bereavement Leave on Current Company Policies
Employers currently offering bereavement leave should continue to do so in accordance with company policy. However, if company policy allows for less than five (5) days off following the loss of a family member, employees must be permitted to take additional time off, up to five (5) days. For example, a company offering three (3) days of paid bereavement leave should continue to offer the time off reflected in the policy and also allow employees to take off additional two (2) unpaid days off. Although the company would not be required to add two (2) additional days as a paid benefit under its policy, it would need to allow employees to utilize accrued vacation, personal leave, sick leave, or other compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.
Employers not currently providing bereavement leave, must offer employees five (5) days leave, but do not need to provide any new paid leave beyond what is currently offered to employees. Employees must be permitted to use any accrued but unused paid leave they have at the time of the bereavement leave.
Policies should be updated in accordance with the new law.
If you have any questions about AB-1949, please feel free to contact us.