Navigating bereavement leave in California can be complex for employers and employees alike. This comprehensive guide aims to demystify the process, covering mandatory requirements, timing, eligibility, payment, and dispute resolution.
It seeks to support employers in creating compassionate workplaces, whilst providing employees clarity on their entitlements during their time of grief.
Bereavement leave: Is this mandatory in California?
In the state of California, bereavement leave is indeed mandatory for private employers with a workforce of at least five employees, with exceptions in place for those who have been employed for less than 30 days. The law mandates up to five days of such leave to be provided.
However, the leave need not be paid unless it is stated so in the employer’s policy or a collective bargaining agreement.
The bereavement leave must be taken within three months of the death, and it does not extend to all family members.
The law also protects the jobs of those availing this leave, ensuring they can return to the same or similar position post-leave.
What’s the timeframe for taking this?
Once the unfortunate event of a family member’s death occurs, you are required to take bereavement leave within three months following the death. This regulation is designed to provide employees with the flexibility to manage grief and handle personal affairs.
This leave can be taken as a continuous period or split across the three months as needed, offering flexibility in managing your time.
The leave applies to immediate family members. This includes parents, children, siblings, spouses, or registered domestic partners.
Any additional days needed beyond the bereavement leave provided by your employer will typically be unpaid unless otherwise specified in your company’s policy. The availability of paid leave will therefore depend on your employer’s specific leave policy.
Is bereavement leave paid?
While California law does not mandate payment for bereavement leave, employees have the option to utilize their accrued paid time off, such as vacation or sick days, for this purpose. It is, however, important to note that the specifics of bereavement leave and its payment largely depend on the employer’s policy. Some companies in California may choose to offer paid leave as part of their benefits package. Some Examples:
|Paid Bereavement Leave
|Unpaid Bereavement Leave
It is therefore advisable for employees to understand their company’s policy to know whether it is paid or unpaid.
Where can I locate information about my employer’s policy on bereavement leave?
To locate your employer’s bereavement leave policy, consult the employee handbook or similar documentation where leave of absence policies are usually outlined. This documentation is often available either in print or via the company’s intranet.
- Employee Handbook: This is typically the first point of reference for company policies. It should cover all types of leaves, including bereavement.
- Human Resources Department: If the policy is unclear or not available in the handbook, your next step should be to contact HR. They can provide clarification and further guidance.
- Company Intranet: Some businesses have their policies, including the bereavement leave policy, available online on their intranet. This can be a convenient method to access up-to-date information.
Which family members qualify under the bereavement leave?
Following the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), bereavement leave is granted for the death of specific family members, a detail crucial to understanding your rights and benefits under your employer’s leave policy. Eligible family members under the CFRA include a spouse, domestic partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law. However, the law does not extend bereavement benefits to other relatives such as aunts, uncles, or cousins.
Each bereavement occurrence entitles an employee to take up to five days of leave within three months of the family member’s death. This leave can be taken all at once or spread out within three months. It is essential to understand this scope to correctly interpret and utilize your bereavement leave rights.
In 2024, California recently expanded what qualifies for bereavement leave to include “reproductive loss event.” This is a significant change as this can include the following:
- final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy,
- stillbirth, or
- an unsuccessful assisted reproduction
What is the duration of the leave?
Granted under the California Family Rights Act, the bereavement leave extends up to five days, which must be taken within three months following the death of the eligible family member.
- Duration: The leave extends for a maximum of five consecutive or non-consecutive days, based on the employee’s preference.
- Utilization period: These five days should be utilized within three months following the death of an eligible family member.
- Unpaid leave: Should an employee need more time, additional leave may be taken, but it will likely be unpaid unless the employer’s policy states otherwise.
Can my employer ask for verification or evidence of the death?
Under California law, your employer has the right to request proof of the family member’s death when you apply for bereavement leave. This evidence typically includes official documents such as death certificates, obituaries, or written verification from a hospital or funeral home. Proof must be provided within 30 days.
Importantly, employers are obligated to keep this sensitive information confidential. It is meant solely to validate the eligibility for bereavement leave, not for any other purpose.
If you experience any issues related to providing proof, such as denial of leave or workplace discrimination, you can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department or seek legal counsel.
Is there any job security during the bereavement leave period?
This leave is indeed job-protected in California, meaning employers are required to reinstate employees to the same or similar position after their leave. This safeguard is essential to ensure employee rights during a challenging period.
- Job Protection: Employers are legally obliged to secure the employee’s job during their bereavement leave. Upon return, the employee should resume their duties in their former or a similar role.
- Restitution: If an employer fails to uphold this protection, the employee has the right to seek legal restitution. This could include reinstatement or compensation for lost wages.
- Legal Recourse: If bereavement leave rights are violated, employees can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department or pursue legal action with a right-to-sue letter.
What if my bereavement leave is denied by my employer?
In the unfortunate event that an employer denies an eligible employee their rightful bereavement leave, there are several legal avenues available for redress.
The employee could file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department, which enforces labor laws and investigates potential violations. This could lead to potential penalties for the employer.
Alternatively, if the issue cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation, the employee may be able to pursue legal action. They can request a right-to-sue letter from the Department and take their employer to court.
In such cases, it is advisable to consult with an employment law attorney to understand the best course of action and the potential implications of any legal proceedings.
This guide provides essential information regarding bereavement leave regulations in California. It covers mandatory requirements, timing, eligibility, and payment. Additionally, it highlights the importance of locating an employer’s leave policies, proof requirements, job protection, and dispute resolution.
Understanding these regulations is crucial for employers striving for a compassionate workplace and employees needing clarity during their time of grief. Therefore, comprehensive knowledge of these regulations ensures a fair approach to bereavement leave, promoting workplace empathy and support during difficult times.