The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California’s Family Rights Act have applied to California employers with 50 or more employees for over twenty years. This fall, Governor Brown extended the Parental Leave requirements of those laws to employers with 20 to 49 employees as well. With the signing of SB 63 the “New Parent Leave Act”, such employers must provide unpaid but job-protected bonding leave. The law is effective on January 1, 2018.
Employers’ Obligations Under The New Parent Leave Act
Under the Act, covered employers must provide 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave upon the request of eligible employees to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. Employees are entitled to utilize any type of accrued paid time off, such as paid vacation and sick leave, during the parental leave. In addition, the leave is job-protected, meaning employers must guarantee employment in the same or a comparable position upon an employee’s return from leave.
The Act will apply to small businesses who employ 20 to 49 employees within 75 miles of each other. Eligible employees must have more than 12 months of service and worked at least 1,250 hours with the employer during the 12 months prior to the requested leave.
In addition to providing 12 weeks of unpaid, protected parental leave, employers must maintain and pay for the employee’s continued coverage under a group health plan at the level and under the same conditions that coverage would have been provided had the employee continued to work. However, under the Act, employers are entitled to recover their portion of the premium in the event the employee fails to return from the leave of absence and the failure to return is not due to the continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition, or “other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.”
As a practical matter it would be very difficult to recover premiums from non-returning employees. This is just another example of an illusory remedy for employers from the California Legislature and the Governor.
It will be necessary for such small employers, heretofore not covered by federal and state child bonding laws to develop leave policies under this new law.
This article is intended to address topics of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice.
© 2017 Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss, Terry O'Connor