California Dreamin'

by Armando Rodriguez, Esq - Product Compliance Counsel, Compliance And Legal Department

& Marti Cardi, Esq. - Vice President, Product Compliance

October 06, 2022

 

All the leaves aren't quite brown, and the sky isn't quite gray yet (well, I guess it depends on where you live!), but we're definitely thinking about California. On September 29, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed 4 leave-related bills into law. Let's jump right in and take a look at the changes.

CFRA Update

California Assembly bill 1041 expands the list of qualified relationships under CFRA. Currently, CFRA allows an employee to take time to care for a family member with a serious health condition, and defines a family member as a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child of any age, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, and parent-in-law. After January 1, 2023, CFRA will also include "designated person" under the definition of family member.

"Designated person" is defined as any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. The update requires that the employee identify the "designated person" at the time the employee requests leave. An employer may limit the employee to only one designated person per 12-month period. Matrix will administer requests for CFRA leave to care for a designated person and will follow California guidance (which we expect before January 1!) on how to assess this new family relationship.

[As an aside, this new relationship will also be added to California's paid sick leave law, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, effective January 1, 2023.]

New Bereavement Leave

California Assembly bill 1949 creates a new bereavement leave for California employees. Effective January 1, 2023, employees will be able to take up to 5 days of bereavement upon the death of a family member. The days of leave do not need to be continuous. The leave must be taken within 3 months of the death. The law does not limit the number of times an employee may take bereavement leave within any period of time. Presumably, the employee may take 5 days of leave for each family member death, even if they occur close in time.

While covered relationships for CFRA leave to care for a family member were just expanded to include a “designated person” (see above), this relationship is not included in bereavement leave, which is limited to "spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law". Employers may require reasonable documentation to support the leave, including but not 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.

Finally, this statutory bereavement leave is to be taken pursuant to (and concurrent with) any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer. If the employer policy does not provide at least 5 days of leave, the employer must nonetheless allow the employee to take up to 5 days. And if the employer policy does not provide for pay or provides fewer than 5 days of paid leave, the employee must be allowed to use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

Matrix will administer this bereavement leave as part of our suite of leave laws managed.

Increased SDI and PFL benefit

California Senate Bill 951 revises the benefit formula for state disability and paid family leave benefits. While the update does extend current rates through December 31, 2024, the new rates don’t take effect until January 1, 2025. We’ll address these changes in more detail closer to those effective dates.

Additionally, the bill removes taxable wage limit for state disability and paid family leave benefits. The current wage limit is based on the maximum weekly benefit amount. For 2022, that wage limit is $145,600. Starting on January 1, 2024, wages will no longer be capped with regard to contributions. For example, using the 2022 contribution rate of 1.1%, an employee with annual earnings of $150,000 would pay $1,650 in contributions. In 2022, those contributions would have been capped at $1,601.60.

California COVID leave extension

Finally, assembly bill 152 extends California's COVID leave protections through the end of the year. Originally set to expire on September 30, 2022, the expiration date for the COVID leave is now December 31, 2022. Matrix does not administer this law and is providing this information as a courtesy.

MATRIX CAN HELP!

We're tracking these trends so you don't have to. These updates to CFRA are consistent with a trend in state leaves to expand covered relationships to include individuals outside the traditional familial model and to provide bereavement leave to employees. Looking for the latest information on statutory benefits? Check this out! Our experienced team of absence management specialists are ready to help keep you compliant with state and federal leave requirements. For more information on our leave solutions, please contact your Matrix or Reliance account manager, or ping us at ping@matrixcos.com.