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September 7, 2023 | EmploymentGeneral

What Changes Were Made to the California Employee Handbook?

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Author(s)
Carlianna Dengel

Associate Attorney

Ashley Sohn

Paralegal

What is the California Employee Handbook?

California Employee Handbooks are resources created by California employers to guide and inform their employees of relevant laws pertaining to their employment.  The laws included in the California Employee Handbook are periodically updated and employers are encouraged to make sure their employee handbooks are up to date.  Below are recent updates containing several substantive changes regarding some of the laws included in the California Employee Handbooks.

What Changes Were Made?

AB 1041 – Employment: leave.

  • Change: Adds a designated person” to the list of defined family members under CFRA and paid sick leave law.
  • This change allows employees (under employers of 5+ employees) to use their sick leave to care for a “designated person.”
  • Designated person” is defined as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship” for the purpose of the CFRA and as a “family member” for whom you can use sick leave under other sick leave laws.
  • The employee does not have to identify the designated person in advance of requesting the leave; however, the law allows employers to limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period. The law does not require that employers adopt this limitation.
  • The employee must meet certain working time requirements to be eligible to use their sick leave for a designated person: an employee with more than 12 months of service to the employer and who has at least 1,250 hours of service during those 12 months.

AB 1949 – Employees: bereavement leave.

  • Change: Mandates bereavement leave for most CA employers. (This is a new law that was added this year.)
  • Employers with 5+ employees may not refuse to grant at least five days of bereavement leave to an employee for the death of a family member.
  • Employees are eligible if they have been employed for at least 30 days before the leave.
  • “Family member” is defined in the bill as a spouse or a child, parent, sibling grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law.
  • The employee must use the leave within three months of the death of the family member. If the employee requests the leave for the applicable time period, the employer must provide it.
  • The required five days of leave need not be taken consecutively.
  • The employer is not required to provide a separate paid leave for bereavement, but it must allow employees to use other types of paid leave for this purpose.
  • Employers may request documentation of the family member’s death, to be provided within 30 days of the first day of leave. All documentation must remain strictly confidential.
  • It is not clear whether there is a limit to the requests for bereavement leave (i.e., whether the employee is limited to leave for only one family member in a given period) or whether the leave must overlap in the unfortunate event of multiple deaths in close proximity.

SB 1044 – Employers: emergency condition: retaliation.

  • Change: Excuses workers from the workplace during “emergency conditions.”
  • This law prohibits employers from taking/threatening adverse action against an employee who refuses to report to or who leaves a workplace within an area affected by an emergency condition because the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe.
  • The bill requires that employees report the emergency to the employer either before, at the time or as soon as possible after the emergency is present and the employee leaves the site.
  • Emergency condition” is defined as the existence of either “conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or worksite caused by natural forces or a criminal act” or “an order to evacuate a workplace, a worksite, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child due to natural disaster or a criminal act.” The definition expressly excludes a health pandemic.
  • “A reasonable belief that the workplace or worksite is unsafe” means that a reasonable person, under the circumstances known to the employee at the time, would conclude there is a real danger of death or serious injury if that person enters or remains on the premises. The bill excludes most health care and first responder-type employees from these provisions.
  • The bill also prohibits the employer from stopping employees from accessing their phones to get aid or to assess their safety in a potential emergency situation.

As the laws included in the California Employee Handbook are subject to change, we encourage employers to check the ‘California Employee Handbook Requirements’ for updates each year. To ensure your Employee Handbook reflects the appropriate changes, it is always a good idea to consult an experienced attorney.

Carlianna Dengel is admitted to practice law in New York and California.

Contributions to this blog by Gabriella Epley.

 

Photo by Rezaul Karim on Unsplash
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