[COLUMN] Employees’ right to bereavement leave now guaranteed under new law

A new law in California has guaranteed bereavement leave to all California employees. California’s Assembly Bill 1949 (A.B. 1949) went into effect this year, and makes it unlawful 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.”

Although some employers previously had policies for bereavement leave, prior state leave laws do not contain requirements that an employer offer bereavement leave.  This new law applies to all California employers with five or more employees.  Employees must have worked at least 30 days for their employer for the law’s protections to apply.

A.B. 1949 guarantees the right to take leave for the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.  The five days of guaranteed leave may, but need not be, taken on consecutive days.    However, all five days, whether taken in a row or intermittently, must be taken within three months of the death of the family member.

If your employer had an existing bereavement policy prior to the law, the leave shall be taken pursuant to said policy, except that all employees are guaranteed a minimum of five days of bereavement leave. Unless a prior policy guaranteed paid bereavement leave, the bereavement leave granted may be unpaid; however, A.B. 1949 specifies that employees may use any vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or paid time off that they may have. Employers have the right under the law to request documentation proving the death of the family member.  However, the law requires that any such documentation, as well as the fact that the employee has requested bereavement leave, must be kept confidential.

The new law expressly prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against any employee who exercises their rights under the new bereavement leave law, or for giving information or testimony regarding their own or a fellow employee’s exercise of rights in any inquiry or proceeding.  Employees whose rights under California’s new bereavement leave law are violated may take legal action against their employer under the law.


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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine for 11 years, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]

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