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EMPLOYMENT LAW: California's New Parental Leave Law


Effective January 1, 2018, a slew of new laws will take effect imposing further requirements on already burdened employers. One amongst the many is the New Parent Leave Act, codified at California Government Code §12945.6. While similar to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the New Parent Leave Act expands its application to include a larger swath of covered employees.

A truncated explanation of this bill is that employers with 20-49 employees located within a 75-mile radius of a worksite, will now be responsible to provide up to 12-weeks unpaid leave within the 12-month period following a child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. Notably, this only applies to employees who work at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12-months. Upon conclusion of the leave, the employer shall then return the employee who took leave to the same or comparable position.

Previously, CFRA controlled and limited its application to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius of a worksite, while still requiring the eligible employee to have worked 1,250 hours in the preceding 12-month period. However, unlike the CFRA, the New Parent Leave Act does not allow for employees to take leave for their own serious health condition, or to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Interestingly, the California Legislature incorporated a mediation pilot program into the statute language. This provides that upon receipt of an employee’s right to sue notice from the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing (DFEH), if the employer elects to participate in mediation, the employee may not pursue civil litigation until the mediation is complete. The employee’s time period to commence civil litigation is tolled until the mediation is completed. If the mediation is unsuccessful, the employee may then commence civil litigation for alleged violations of the New Parent Leave Act. However, this pilot program is temporary and, at least at this time, is set to expire January 1, 2020.

Employers can, and should, take practical steps to ensure compliance with the New Parent Leave Act. First of those practical steps is to meet with qualified labor and employer counsel to modify existing employee handbooks congruent with the new law or to create a handbook. Secondly, employers should train their Human Resources departments on the new policy and train these employees on its proper implementation. The attorneys at Poole Shaffery are prepared to assist employers in taking these practical steps in complying with the new laws of 2018.

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