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Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC Over 100 Years of Combined Litigation Experience

Is an Employer Required to Offer Bereavement Leave in California?


What happens if an employee requests leave to attend a funeral? In California, it is imperative that employers have the right policies in place to handle such requests. As of last year, all employers in California with five or more employees must grant workers at least five days of unpaid, job-protected bereavement leave if a family member dies. Here, our Riverside County employment lawyer explains the most important things employers in California should know about their obligation to provide job-protected bereavement leave.

Many Employers in California are Required to Offer Job-Protected Bereavement Leave

There is no federal requirement that employers must provide bereavement leave. Beyond that, most states do not have bereavement leave policies in place. That being said, California is an exception. The law in our state changed as of January 1st, 2023. As explained by the California Civil Rights Department, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) “requires covered employers to grant eligible employees’ request for up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of certain family members.” Here are some essential things to understand about the law:

  • Coverage: The CFRA does not cover every employer in California. The law applies to companies and organizations with five or more employees.
  • Scope: The CFRA mandates that covered employers must let eligible workers take bereavement leave for the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.
  • No Requirement for Paid Leave: Although employers covered by the CFRA are required to provide eligible workers up to five days of bereavement leave, there is no requirement that employees have to be paid for this time. It can be job-protected, unpaid leave.
  • Multiple Deaths/Requests: An employee may take bereavement leave throughout the year for multiple deaths of their covered family members, with five days per death.
  • Documentation: California employers can require the employee to provide proof of the death in many forms – a church bulletin, death certificate, etc.

Employers Should Have a Clear, Comprehensive Process for Taking Leave Requests 

As the CFRA requires many employees in California to provide job-protected bereavement leave to workers, it is crucial that companies have a clear and comprehensive process for handling leave requests. Among other things, they should establish transparent policies outlining how employees can request leave. Bereavement leave is certainly not an exception. A well-defined process should detail the steps to be taken by employees when requesting leave, specify any documentation required, and clarify the expected communication channels.

Remember, it is important to include how the company will handle both anticipated and sudden leave requests. Employers should also ensure that their managers and human resources staff are well-trained on these procedures to provide proper, timely responses to all types of leave requests. Poorly designed leave policies not only risk alienating staff, they could result in a company facing liability for a CFRA violation under California law.

Contact Our California Employment Law Attorney Today

At the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat, APC, our California employment lawyer is an experienced advocate for clients. If you have questions about bereavement leave requirements or other employment practices, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a confidential consultation. Our firm represents employers in Coachella Valley, Riverside County, and throughout California.


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