On July 1, 2015, new amendments to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) took effect. Read on to learn more about the amended regulations and how it will impact your company.
California Family Rights Act Overview
The CFRA was established in 1993 to ensure secure leave rights for employees under the following circumstances:
1. The birth of a child for the purpose of bonding;
2. The placement of a child in the employee’s family for adoption or foster care; and
3. For a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s immediate family member (child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner).
A part-time or full-time California employee is eligible for leave under the CFRA if she has worked at minimum 1,250 hours for the same employer for 12 months prior to the date her leave begins. An employee can take leave under the CFRA only if her employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s work site.
New CFRA Regulations
The California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) issued amended regulations clarifying the CFRA. The amended regulations will bring uniformity between the CFRA and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The following is an overview of the major changes to the law:
1. Clarification Between Covered and Eligible Employees
As mentioned above, the CFRA only applies to employers who have 50 or more employees. The new regulations provide more clarity on how to determine if there are more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius. Under the new regulations, an employee’s work location will now be based upon their designated home base (e.g., a home office) from which their work is assigned or to which they report. Employers who did not previously fall under the parameters of the CFRA must now determine if the regulations apply to their company.
2. Certification of Health Care Provider
Under prior CFRA and FMLA regulations, employers were allowed to request that an employee obtain a second opinion by a medical professional if the employer had reason to doubt the validity of the employee’s serious medical condition. The new regulations now require employers to have a good faith, objective reason to question the validity of the certification. Employers are only allowed to contact healthcare providers to authenticate a medical certification.
California law prohibits employers from asking a health care provider to disclose the employee’s serious health condition. Hence, the new CFRA regulations have approved a CFRA Certification of Health Care Provider form which specifically warns healthcare providers not to disclose the specific nature of an employee or family member’s serious health condition.
3. Provide Notice of CFRA Regulations
The new CFRA regulations require employers to post a notice explaining to employees their rights and procedures for requesting leave under CFRA. The notice must be posted in a highly visible place in which both employees and job applicants can view it. In addition, the new regulations require the notice to be translated into any language that is spoken by at least 10% of the workforce.
4. Health Benefits
Under the new regulations, an employer is required to maintain an employee’s health benefits for both Pregnancy Disability Leave for up to 4 months and “baby bonding” under CFRA for up to 12 weeks. Those are separate leaves that are not combined.
In addition, employers now only have five (5) business days to respond to an employee’s request for CFRA leave, and employers must allow employees to use their paid vacation time or other undifferentiated accrued paid time off during any unpaid portion of their CFRA leave.
Employers should update their CFRA leave policies, procedures, and forms to make sure they are in compliance with the new regulations. Employers should inform managers and first-line supervisors immediately about the new changes and provide appropriate training.
It is highly recommended that your company consult with an employment lawyer to discuss the new regulations. An employment lawyer can help keep your company in compliance with the new CFRA regulations.