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Employers with Five or More Employees Must Provide Bereavement Leave

By: Rebecca L. Gombos, Esq.

On September 29, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Assembly Bill 1949 (“AB 1949”) into law, which amends the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to require covered employers to provide eligible employees with 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave.

Who Must Provide Bereavement Leave?” AB 1949 applies to employers with five (5) or more employees nationwide.

Who is Eligible for Bereavement Leave? An employee who has been employed by the employer for at least 30 days prior to the commencement of the leave may take up to five (5) days of unpaid bereavement leave for the death of a “family member,” which includes: a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, parent-in-law (parent of spouse or domestic partner), sibling, grandparent, or grandchild.

When Does Bereavement Leave Need to be Taken? Bereavement leave must be completed within three (3) months of the date of the family member’s death. The days of bereavement leave need not be consecutive.

Can the Employer Request Documentation? Yes. If the employer requests documentation, the employee shall provide documentation of the death of the family member within 30 days of the first day of the leave. Acceptable documentation shall include a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or government agency.

Does the Employer Have an Existing Bereavement Leave Policy? Bereavement leave shall be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer. If the existing policy provides for less than five days of paid bereavement leave, the employee would be entitled to paid leave under the existing policy and the remainder of days may be unpaid. Although, the employee may use vacation, personal leave, sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

If there is no existing bereavement leave policy, the bereavement leave may be unpaid, except the employee may use accrued vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or available compensatory time off.

What Should Employers Do Now? Covered employers need to update their policies and/or employee handbooks to include this new benefit and provide adequate training to managers and supervisors.

Please contact our firm for further information, questions, or assistance with drafting a bereavement leave policy.

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