On March 28, 2012, a California Assembly committee considered a bill that would expand the scope of California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA). These proposed expansions to CFRA could potentially increase the amount of unpaid leave time taken by employees in California and would almost certainly add to the challenges already faced by California employers seeking to comply with complex state and federal leave laws while ensuring adequate staffing. Currently, CFRA requires any employer with 50 or more employees to allow employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last year to take up to 12 weeks of protected leave over a 12-month period for their own serious medical condition, for the birth or placement of a child, or to care for the serious medical condition of a child, spouse or parent (which includes non-parents acting in loco parentis).

A.B. 2039, introduced by Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, would extend CFRA leave rights to those caring for adult children, parents-in-law, grandparents and siblings. While proponents of the bill say it will prevent employees from having to choose between their work and the well-being of their family members, others have highlighted the significant additional costs the bill would impose on employers already stretched thin by a weakened economy. In their application, CFRA and similar statutes can disrupt business operations and force employers to find temporary (and frequently costly) staffing solutions for employees on protected leaves of absence. The California Chamber of Commerce notes that the provision, if passed, would discourage small employers from growing to 50 employees in order to avoid triggering the CFRA requirements. The bill would also cover leave that is already provided for under current law, as a grandparent or step-parent who stands in loco parentis to a child can already take protected leave to care for that child, and vice versa.

Stay tuned to Proskauer’s California Employment Law Update for future developments on this bill and other issues concerning employee leave.