California Expands Job-Protected Leave for New Parents

Over two million employees will now have access to job-protected leave.

Beginning on January 1, 2018, more employees will be eligible for job-protected leave to bond with a new child. In California, employers with 50 or more employees must allow eligible employees to take parental leave and return to their jobs. Now, employers with 20 or more employees will also need to provide job-protected leave for new parents.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)—which have been on the books for many years—already require employers with 50 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for certain reasons, including to bond with a new child. The FMLA and CFRA also require employers to reinstate employees to their jobs when their leave is over.

The new law, called the New Parent Leave Act, requires employers with 20 or more employees to provide the same rights. Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave within a year of a child’s arrival by birth, adoption, or foster placement. When their leave is over, they must be returned to the same job or to a comparable one. Like the FMLA and CFRA, the New Parent Leave Act requires employers to continue an employee’s group health coverage during the leave.

To be eligible for job-protected leave, employees must:

  • have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave, and
  • work at a location where the employer has at least 20 employees in a 75-mile radius.

Like the FMLA and CFRA, time off under the New Parent Leave Act is unpaid. However, employees can receive partial pay from the state through California’s paid family leave program. Employees working for employers with fewer than 20 employees can also receive these paid family leave benefits. However, they are not entitled to job-protected leave under the law. In other words, they may take time off and receive pay from the state, but their employers can fire them or refuse to hold their jobs for them.

Under the new law, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing is required to create a parental leave mediation pilot program. Within 60 days of receiving a right-to-sue notice, an employer may request mediation. The employee won’t be able to sue in court until the mediation process is deemed complete. However, the employee’s election not to participate will complete the mediation process.

Effective Date: January 1, 2018