Updated CA Family Care and Leave Act Impacts Small Businesses

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is our state’s counterpart to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The CFRA provides more expansive protection to employees and, as of January 1st, 2021, the CFRA has been updated and expanded. More small businesses in the Bay Area now have obligations under the statute. In this article, our Fremont employment law attorney for employers provides an overview of the key things small businesses should know about the updated California family care and family leave laws.

Background: An Overview of the CFRA

The CFRA is our state’s primary family care and leave law for employees. Under the CFRA, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to deal with a qualifying family or medical emergency. The California Department of Fair Housing and Employment emphasizes that the law provides leave for eligible workers to “care for their own serious health condition or a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child.”

Dramatic Expansion of CFRA—It Now Applies to Many Small Employers

Recent legislation has changed the scope of the family care and medical leave laws in California. Effective as of January 1st, 2021, many more small businesses are covered by the CFRA. Here are five key things that all small business owners in the Bay Area need to know about the law:

  1. Five or more employees: The CFRA applies to all businesses and organizations with five or more total employees. Only employers with four or fewer workers are exempt from coverage.
  2. Executives are employees: The CFRA clearly states that executives and officers are counted as employees.
  3. No more 75 mile radius: The 75 mile radius requirement—which still counted for the federal FMLA—is no longer an element in the CFRA. It doesn’t matter where employees are located. As more and more workers began to work remotely, California removed the 75 mile radius requirement.
  4. No exception for employers based outside of CA: The CFRA counts all employees—regardless of state. Further, there is no exception to the law for employers based outside of California. If you have an employee in California and you have five or more total workers nationwide, that California employee is covered by the CFRA.
  5. “Family member” is broader: Finally, the term “family member” has been dramatically expanded to include more people. A worker may now be able to take unpaid, job-protected leave to care for an adult child, a sibling, or a grandparent.

Small Businesses Must Ensure that their Employee Handbook is Updated

All small businesses in California should review and, if necessary, revise their employee handbook and/or any other materials that they provide to staff. As the reformed CFRA applies to many more small businesses, it is possible that some companies or organizations are using outdated materials that improperly state that they are not covered by the CFRA. Small businesses can consult with an employment lawyer for employers to ensure that their handbook is fully compliant with the January 1st, 2021 revisions to the CFRA.

Get Help from an Employment Lawyer for Employers in California

Lynnette Ariathurai is an experienced employment attorney for employers. If you are a small business owner in Fremont CA, near Newark, or Hayward, East Bay, Milpitas, Union City, San Leandro, Gilroy, San Jose, or Santa Clara with questions about the updated California Family Rights Act (CFRA), we are here to help. Contact us today to set up a confidential initial appointment.

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