January 18, 2021

Does Your Employee Handbook Address the Latest New Laws? If Not, It May Be Time for an Upgrade

This past year brought new laws requiring changes to policies commonly found in California employee handbooks. To ensure compliance with current California law, employers should review and update their handbooks within these first few months of 2021.

Here are just a few of the key updates employers should act on:

  1. Expansion of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”)Previously, under CFRA, an employee would be entitled to 12 workweeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period only if he or she worked for an employer with 50 or more employees. SB 1383 expands CFRA to cover businesses with as few as five employees. These employers must now have a CFRA policy in place permitting employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.Preexisting CFRA policies also must be updated to reflect these changes:- There is no longer a requirement that any number of employees be within a 75-mile radius of each other for purposes of counting employees.

    – Eligible family members and reasons for leave have expanded. Leave may be taken due to an employee’s own serious health condition; for a birth, adoption or foster care of a child; the need to care for a parent, child (regardless of age), spouse, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or registered domestic partner with a serious health condition; or for a qualifying exigency  related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the US Armed Forces.

    – If both parents work for the same employer, each parent is entitled to take up to 12 weeks off for baby-bonding leave.

  2. Changes to California Kin Care LawAB 2017 amends Labor Code section 233, which requires that employees be allowed to use half of their sick leave to care for a family member, to provide employees the “sole discretion” to choose to use sick leave time for Kin Care.
  3. Time Off for Victims of Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking. AB 2992 expands Labor Code sections 230 and 230.1 providing protected leave to employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, to include protected leave for victims of other crime or abuse that caused physical injury or that caused mental injury and a threat of physical injury and a person whose immediate family member is deceased as the direct result of the crime. These employees may take time off from work to obtain relief (such as securing a restraining order or seeking medical attention or counseling).AB 2992 expands the prohibition on discriminating or retaliating against the above described employee victims.AB 2992 now broadly defines what constitutes a “crime.” An employee may take protected leave if he or she is a victim of “a crime or public offense” that “would constitute a misdemeanor or a felony if the crime had been committed in California by a competent adult,” regardless of “whether any person is arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of, committing the crime.”
  4. Changes to Paid Family Leave (“PFL”)SB 83 amends California’s Paid Family Leave program to provide up to eight weeks of Paid Family Leave benefits for employees to take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner) or to bond with a new child by birth, adoption, or foster care placement.SB 83 also eliminates the previously required waiting period before benefits are paid.Finally, SB 83 expands PFL to allow an employee to receive benefits for leave taken for a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the employee’s family member in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

These changes require revisions in all employee handbooks. If you would like our assistance reviewing and updating your employee handbook to help you stay compliant, please email your Payne & Fears attorney or contact info@paynefears.com.