New California Law Affords More Parents the Right to Take a Job-Protected Leave of Absence to Bond with a New Child

Effective January 1, 2018, the “New Parent Leave Act” will require employers with at least 20 employees to allow employees who have performed more than 12 months of service to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement provided that the employee has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period and that the employee works at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles.  The law entitles eligible employees to apply accrued vacation time, paid sick time, or other accrued paid time off during the period of parental leave.

With respect to employees who have health care coverage through their employer pursuant to a group health plan, the Act entitles eligible employees taking leave pursuant to the Act to continue to receive health care coverage per the same terms and conditions as would have been provided if the employee had continued working in his or her position during the leave for a period up to 12 weeks. If the employee fails to return to work after the leave is exhausted, the law allows the employer to recover the costs of maintaining the employee’s health plan during the leave unless the failure to return is caused by a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the employee’s control.

If an employee is eligible for child-bonding leave under the Family & Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, the New Parent Leave Act is inapplicable.

If the employer employs both parents, the employer is not required to provide more than 12 weeks of combined leave.

The New Parent Leave Act prohibits discrimination and retaliation against employees for taking leave pursuant to the Act.  The law further provides that if, on or before the commencement of the leave, the employer does not provide a guarantee of employment in the same or a comparable position upon the termination of the leave, the employer is deemed to have refused to allow the leave.

Through January 1, 2020, the law also requires the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) to create a parental leave mediation pilot program to address claims of violations of the Act.  Under that program, an employer may request all parties to participate in a DFEH mediation within 60 days of receiving a right-to-sue notice.  If the employer makes such a request, the employee cannot pursue any civil action until the mediation is complete.

To see the complete text of the law, click here. For more information about the Act, please contact a Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. attorney at 818-817-7570.

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The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at www.laemploymentcounsel.com to learn more about us.

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