Bereavement Leave Laws in California

bereavement leave california

Did you know that only five states offer bereavement leave, leaving millions of U.S. workers without access to this valuable protection? Fortunately, California has specific bereavement leave laws that provide eligible workers with time off to grieve, attend funerals, and handle other post-death matters.

The loss of a loved one is a profoundly personal and emotional experience. During this challenging time, the last thing you should worry about is your job security. Continue reading to learn more about the essential aspects of California’s bereavement laws, including eligibility criteria, how to request time off, and whether it’s paid or unpaid.

California Bereavement Leave Laws

Before 2023, California employers were not required to offer bereavement leave. With the passage of Assembly Bill 1949 (AB 1949) in September 2022, employers, with a few exceptions, must now provide it.

AB 1949 grants employees up to five days of time off upon the death of a qualifying family member. Employees may take the time off consecutively for up to five days or intermittently within three months of the family member’s passing.

Under the legislation, employers are not required to offer paid bereavement leave. Whether you are paid or unpaid during this time depends on your employer’s existing leave policy.

Your employer cannot take adverse actions, such as terminating, suspending, or demoting you for taking time off to grieve. Bereavement leave is protected and separate from the 12 weeks of time off offered under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Who Is Eligible for Bereavement Leave in California?

To be eligible for bereavement leave under AB 1949, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must work for a company with at least five employees;
  • You must have worked for the company for at least 30 days immediately preceding the death of your loved one; or
  • The deceased individual must be considered a “family member” under the law, such as your spouse or domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.

State employees are also eligible under AB 1949. Your employer may offer additional benefits, including covering other relatives or offering additional days.

Exceptions to Bereavement Leave

California’s bereavement leave law does not apply to you if you have a collective bargaining agreement that includes the following provisions: 

  • A regular hourly pay rate at least 30% above the state’s minimum wage,
  • Bereavement leave equal to or exceeding five days,
  • Wages, work hours, and working conditions of covered employees, and
  • Premium wage rates for all overtime worked.

Additionally, if you are an independent contractor or work for a small business with fewer than 25 employees, you may not be eligible.

What If My Employer Has a Bereavement Leave Policy?

Some employers may have existing policies that provide paid leave, extended beyond five days, or offer other supportive benefits. Employers can maintain existing policies as long as they provide at least five days of unpaid time off, consistent with the regulations of AB 1949, even if they offer additional benefits.

Requesting Bereavement Leave

While the emotional toll of loss can be overwhelming, requesting time off to grieve should be a straightforward and uncomplicated process. Here are the steps you should take:

  • Notify your employer—inform your supervisor or HR department about your loved one’s passing and your intention to take time off as soon as possible;
  • Discuss your needs—communicate the timeframe for your leave and whether you plan to take it consecutively or intermittently; and 
  • Provide documentation—if your employer requires verification of the death, submit the requested documents promptly, such as an obituary or death certificate.

Even though AB 1949 protects your job security during bereavement leave, following your company’s procedures for requesting time off is essential, ensuring a smooth transition and minimizing potential work disruptions.

Can I Use My Accrued Paid Time Off (PTO) During Bereavement Leave?

While bereavement leave is unpaid, you can use vacation time, sick leave, or other PTO during this period. Using your PTO can help reduce financial stress and allow you to focus on grieving and healing without worrying about lost income. 

Check with your human resources department or review your company’s policy to understand any specific guidelines or limitations regarding using PTO for bereavement leave.

Can I Take Bereavement Leave More Than Once a Year?

Yes. When a qualifying family member passes away, you are entitled to up to five days of bereavement leave. For example, if your sister dies in April and your dad dies in August, you will be entitled to time off for both.

Additional Bereavement Resources and Support

Here are some helpful resources that might offer additional support:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs). Many companies offer EAPs that provide confidential counseling and support services to employees facing personal challenges, including grief.
  • The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The DFEH provides information on employee rights and resources for filing a complaint if your employer violates bereavement leave policies. 

Local support groups or online forums may also be available during this challenging time to provide a sense of community and understanding. 

When an Employment Lawyer Can Be Helpful

If you have questions about your bereavement leave eligibility or your employer denies your request, it’s wise to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your rights under California law and advocate for fair treatment during your time of grief.

Connect with California Employment Lawyer Aidin Ghavimi for personalized legal advice. Call Now

Denied Bereavement Leave in California? We Can Help

At Starpoint Law, we understand the emotional and financial challenges of losing a loved one. Our team of experienced employment lawyers will protect your rights and ensure you receive bereavement leave under Assembly Bill 1949. We’ll help you understand your rights, advise your options, and represent your interests in negotiations with your employer or in court. 

We have recovered nearly a million dollars in compensation for our clients across California in employment law disputes. If you have questions about your rights under California’s bereavement laws or need help with an employment issue, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Starpoint Injury Law Staff

Starpoint Law was founded on a number of core principles that allow us to help our clients and develop deep and meaningful relationships. If you have suffered injuries or facing an issue with your employer, reach out to our legal team and we can sit down for a free consultation and start the process immediately.

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