California’s New Bereavement Leave Requirement

By Jordan Jeter

As of January 1, 2023, California employers with five or more employees must allow employees up to five days of protected bereavement leave.

The law, which amends the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), makes it unlawful for an employer to refuse to grant an eligible employee bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. A “family member” is defined as a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.

The five days of bereavement leave need not be consecutive, but must be completed within three months of the date of death of the employee’s family member. The law does not contain a limit on the number of occurrences for which an employee can use bereavement leave.

Whether the days are paid or unpaid depends on the employer’s current policy. If the employer does not currently have a bereavement leave policy, the new five days of bereavement leave may be unpaid, but employees can use any accrued vacation, personal, or sick leave. If the employer does have a current policy and that policy provides less than five days of paid leave, the employee is entitled to the additional days of leave – but they may be unpaid.

The law makes it an unlawful employment practice for employers to interfere with or otherwise deny employee requests for protected bereavement leave. Furthermore, although it is housed within CFRA, the five days of bereavement leave are separate and distinct from the 12 weeks of leave permitted under CFRA.

Employers should review their policies now, ahead of the January 1, 2023 effective date. Please contact your employment counsel with questions.

This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have questions about the issues raised here, please contact any of the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.