In February 2022, California’s legislature introduced two family-focused bills that, if passed, would (1) require employers to provide bereavement leave to all employees upon the death of a family member (AB-1949) and (2) add “family responsibilities” as a protected class under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (AB-2182).
Bereavement Leave (AB-1949):
This Bill would require employers to provide employees with five (5) days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a “family member,” defined as a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. Though the leave is unpaid, employees would be allowed to use vacation, personal leave, sick leave, or other paid time off to cover days taken for bereavement.
If an employer already provides paid bereavement leave, but the policy is fewer than five (5) days, employers must provide additional days to meet this requirement, but those additional days may be unpaid. The leave days do not need to be consecutive but must be taken within three (3) months of the family member’s death.
Family Responsibilities (AB-2182):
This Bill would add “family responsibilities” as a protected class under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). “Family responsibilities” is defined as obligations to provide care for a minor child or “care recipient,” which includes a family member or household member who relies on the employee for medical care or assistance with activities of daily living. Some examples of a “care recipient” might be an employee’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.
Much like with disability protections under FEHA, employers may be required to provide reasonable accommodations for family responsibilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship or burden. Employers should keep in mind that this bill would also likely require an interactive process to locate a reasonable accommodation, and make it unlawful for an employer to fail to make reasonable accommodations or to retaliate or discriminate against a person for requesting a family responsibilities accommodation.
Both AB-1949 and AB-2182 are still going through the legislative process and have not yet passed the California Senate or Assembly. However, we anticipate that both bills will pass without significant amendments and be sent to Governor Newsom later this year for signature. Employers should review their existing policies to determine if such policies already account for bereavement leave or provide accommodations to those with caregiver responsibilities.