California Expands Job-Protected Leave under its Family Rights Act

California Expands Job-Protected Leave under its Family Rights Act

Beginning January 1, 2021, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) will require businesses with five or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family care and medical leave annually to eligible employees.

This is a major expansion of the CFRA’s previous rules and will require large and small employers to create or revise their leave policies and employee notices by December 31, 2020.

Who Is Covered?
Pursuant to SB 1383, the amended CFRA applies to all businesses who directly employ 5 or more people in California (whether or not the company is headquartered elsewhere).

Employees are eligible to take CFRA leave for qualifying reasons if the employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months.

Reasons for CFRA Leave:
Eligible employees can take CFRA leave for the following reasons:

  • The employee’s own serious health condition
  • To care for the employee’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse or domestic partner when that person has a serious health condition, or
  • The birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child of the employee or the employee’s domestic partner

Employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions are protected by a separate state law that provides up to four months of unpaid leave, distinct from CFRA leave.

Scope of CFRA Leave:
The CFRA provides up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave. The employer must hold the employee’s job open during CFRA leave, and must continue to pay the employer’s share of any health insurance premiums during this time.

Because CFRA leave is broader than the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which covers businesses with 50 or more employees, in some cases employees may be able to claim up to 12 weeks of CFRA leave (such as to care for a grandchild or sibling), even if they have exhausted their FMLA entitlement.

Next Steps for Employers:
All employers with 5 or more employees based in California will need to create or revise existing leave policies and notify their employees of their rights under this new law before it takes effect on January 1, 2021.

Employers with 20 to 49 employees based in California should be aware that the New Parent Leave Act, which provided baby bonding leave beginning in 2018, will be repealed as of January 1, 2021 since leave for this purpose is now part of the CFRA.

Employers with 50 or more employees in California should be aware that the CFRA is broader than the FMLA, in that it extends medical leave to include care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and children of employees’ domestic partners. Additionally, the FMLA’s “key employee” exception will no longer be available to employers under the CFRA.

If you have questions about the amended CFRA or if you would like help updating your policies, please contact Christy Kotowski at [email protected] or 510-748-0930. 


Christy Kotowski joined Outside GC’s California team as Senior Counsel in 2019. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Christy handles a broad range of complex workplace issues at the federal, state and local levels. Previously, she worked as in-house employment counsel for several large companies, and started her legal career in the Silicon Valley office of Morrison & Foerster, one of California’s oldest and largest law firms. She can be reached at [email protected] or 510-748-0930.

This publication should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances not an offer to represent you. It is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your attorney concerning any particular situation and any specific legal questions you may have. Pursuant to applicable rules of professional conduct, portions of this publication may constitute Attorney Advertising.

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