California has enacted legislation (Assembly Bill 1949) that will require employers with five or more employees to offer bereavement leave. Assembly Bill 1949 takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Eligible employees are entitled to use up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. The days of bereavement leave need not be consecutive, but the leave must be completed within three months of the date of death of the family member.
Under the law, a family member is a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law as defined by these terms.
To be eligible for bereavement leave under the law, an employee must work for the employer for at least 30 days before the start of the leave.
Note: An employee’s right to bereavement leave is separate and distinct from any right under the California Family Rights Act.
An employer may request that an employee provide documentation of the death of the family member. If requested by the employer, the employee must provide the documentation within 30 days of the first day of the leave. Under the law, documentation includes, but isn’t 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.
Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting leave under the law. Any documentation provided to the employer must be maintained as confidential and must not be disclosed except to internal personnel or counsel, as necessary, or as required by law.
Pay During Leave:
Unless the employer has an existing paid bereavement leave policy, the leave provided under Assembly Bill 1949 may be unpaid, but employees are entitled to use accrued sick leave or other paid time off for this purpose.
If the employer has an existing paid bereavement leave policy, the employer must continue to offer the same number of days of paid bereavement if five or fewer. For example, if an employer’s existing policy calls for three days of paid bereavement leave:
- The employer must continue to offer three days of paid leave.
- The remaining two days of bereavement leave can be unpaid if the employee doesn’t elect to use accrued sick leave or other paid time off for this purpose.
Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against an individual because:
- They exercise the right to bereavement leave.
- They give information or testimony as to their own bereavement leave, or another person’s bereavement leave, in an inquiry or proceeding related to rights guaranteed by the law.
- Review policies, forms and practices to ensure compliance with Assembly Bill 1949.
- Train supervisors on the new law and how to handle leave requests.