New California Law Mandating Bereavement Leave Starts January 1

In the United States, workers’ access to bereavement leave in the event of the tragic loss of a family member is inconsistent or nonexistent. The state of Oregon offers up to 2 weeks of bereavement leave for employees working for employers of a certain size under its unpaid but job-protected family leave law.

There is no federal law requiring that employers provide bereavement leave. This left it up to employers and employees to make informal arrangements.

Now in California, newly passed law, AB 1949 which added 12945.7 is added to the Government Code, takes effect on January 1, and requires private employers with five or more employees and public sector employers to provide employees with at least 30 days of service up to five unpaid days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member.

The five days of bereavement leave must be provided in addition to the 12 weeks of family and medical leave permitted under the the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The days of bereavement leave need not be consecutive.

“Family member” means a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law as defined in Section 12945.2.

The bereavement leave shall be completed within three months of the date of death of the family member.

The bereavement leave shall be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer.If there is no existing bereavement leave policy, the bereavement leave may be unpaid, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

If an existing leave policy provides for less than five days of paid bereavement leave, the employee shall be entitled to no less than a total of five days of bereavement leave, consisting of the number of days of paid leave under the existing policy, and the remainder of days of leave may be unpaid, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

If an existing leave policy provides for less than five days of unpaid bereavement leave, the employee shall be entitled to no less than five days of unpaid bereavement leave, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

The employee, if requested by the employer, within 30 days of the first day of the leave, shall provide documentation of the death of the family member. As used in this subdivision, “documentation” includes, but is not limited to, 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.

The employer shall maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting leave under this . Any documentation provided to the employer pursuant to this new law shall be maintained as confidential and shall not be disclosed except to internal personnel or counsel, as necessary, or as required by law.

The new law does not apply to an employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement if the agreement expressly provides for bereavement leave equivalent to that required by this section and for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of the employees, and if the agreement provides premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, where applicable, and a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent above the state minimum wage.

New California Law Mandating Bereavement Leave Starts January 1

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