California’s New Parent Leave Act Reaches New Parents Who Work for Small Businesses

For nearly twenty-five years, both the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) have required large employers, those with 50 or more employees, to provide their employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a newborn, newly-adopted child or newly-placed foster child. Small businesses are, however, exempt from the CFRA/FMLA and their employees have been without the same new-parent rights and protections. The void has left these new parents with tough decisions about parental and work responsibilities.

This January, new parent bonding leave will finally reach employees of smaller employers. California’s New Parent Leave Act (NPLA), which takes effect on January 1, 2018, will require businesses with 20-49 employees to provide their employees with 12 weeks’ leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

To be eligible, an employee must have:

  • more than 12 months of service with the employer,
  • have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, and
  • work at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles.

Employees who are eligible for both CFRA and FMLA new parent leave are not eligible for NPLA leave. Otherwise, the terms of NPLA leave are similar to CFRA and FMLA leave. In fact, the NPLA will share the CFRA’s interpreting regulations to the extent they are within the scope of, and not inconsistent with the NPLA. Like CFRA, the NPLA provides that:

  • An employee may take new parent leave in addition to pregnancy disability leave, if eligible for that leave.
  • An employee may use accrued vacation pay, paid sick time or other accrued paid time off during NPLA leave.
  • If the employer employs both parents, together their leave is capped at 12 workweeks.
  • An employer is required to pay for the employee’s continued coverage under a group health plan during the leave, but the employer can recover premiums from employees who do not return to work following the leave.
  • An employer must reinstate the employee to the same or a comparable position upon returning from the leave.

Finally, the NPLA prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against an individual for taking NPLA leave, and from interfering with or denying parental leave rights. Given that the California Fair Employment and Housing Council makes informing employees of their rights a priority, the NPLA is likely to be addressed by one or more of California’s mandatory workplace postings. We’ll let you know if and when that happens. Stay tuned.

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