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California Bereavement Leave Bill Introduced Again

Bereavement leave must be completed within three months of the date of death of the family member

By Chris Micheli, February 15, 2022 11:36 am

On February 10, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) introduced Assembly Bill 1949 to provide bereavement leave. AB 1949 would add Government Code Section 12945.7 to provide bereavement leave.

The bill defines “employee” to mean “a person employed by the employer for at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the leave.” An “employer” is defined as either (a) a person who employs five or more persons to perform services for a wage or salary, or (b) the state and any political or civil subdivision of the state, including, but not limited to, cities and counties. The bill also defines the term “family member” to be a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.

AB 1949 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by any employee to take up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. The days of bereavement leave do not need to be consecutive. However, the bereavement leave must be completed within three months of the date of death of the family member. And, the bereavement leave has to be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer.

If there is an existing bereavement leave policy by the employer, then the bereavement leave is unpaid, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

If an existing leave policy provides for less than five days of paid bereavement leave, the employee is entitled to no less than a total of five days of bereavement leave, consisting of the number of days of paid leave under the existing policy and the remainder of days of leave unpaid, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

In addition, if an existing leave policy provides for less than five days of unpaid bereavement leave, the employee is entitled to no less than five days of unpaid bereavement leave, except that an employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee. The employee, if requested by the employer, within 30 days of the first day of the leave, is required to provide documentation of the death of the family member.

AB 1949 also makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to hire, or to discharge, demote, fine, suspend, expel, or discriminate against, an individual because of an individual’s exercise of the right to bereavement leave or an individual’s giving information or testimony as to their own bereavement leave, or another person’s bereavement leave, in an inquiry or proceeding related to rights guaranteed under this section.

Moreover, AB 1949 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of, or the attempt to exercise, any right to bereavement leave. An employer is required to maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting leave and any related information.

Finally, AB 1949 does not apply to an employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement if the agreement expressly provides for bereavement leave equivalent to that required by this section and for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of the employees, and if the agreement provides premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, where applicable, and a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent above the state minimum wage.

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