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California Expands Bereavement Leave Benefits
Oct 6, 2022

California Expands Bereavement Leave Benefits

Topics: Employee Leave, New Laws & Legislation

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1949 into law on September 29, 2022. This bill requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave for the death of an employee’s family member. AB 1949 goes into effect on January 1, 2023 and applies to private employers with five or more employees and to all public employers.

Under this new law, employees who have been employed by a covered employer for 30 or more days before the requested leave are eligible for bereavement leave related to the death of a family member. AB 1949 creates Government Code Section 12945.7, which defines a family member as a:

  • spouse
  • domestic partner
  • child
  • parent
  • parent-in-law
  • sibling
  • grandparent
  • grandchild 

The bereavement leave days need not be consecutive but must be completed within 3 months of the date of the family member’s death. In the absence of an employer’s policy to the contrary, bereavement leave is unpaid. However, an employee must be permitted to use accrued and available paid sick leave for the leave if requested.

Employers may request documentation of the family member’s death in the form of a death certificate, a published obituary, or a written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution or government agency. The employee must provide the requested documentation within 30 days of the first day of leave. Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting bereavement leave. This new law also expressly forbids interfering with, taking an adverse employment action against, or discriminating against an employee for exercising the right to bereavement leave. Disputes regarding bereavement leave are subject to the mandatory mediation procedures set forth at Government Code 12945.21 that apply to employees of small employers.

AB 1949 does not apply to employees who are subject to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) if the CBA expressly provides:

  1. for bereavement leave equivalent to AB 1949;
  2. for the wages, hours of work and working conditions of the employees; and 
  3. for premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, where applicable, and a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent above the state minimum wage ($20.15 in 2023).

CDF’s attorneys are here to help should you have any questions regarding this new bereavement leave law, or its implementation.

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For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
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