Paid Family Leave In California

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For longer than many Californians realize, California has supported the idea of workers receiving pay when they take family leave. A component of California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program created in 1946, California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) was signed into law as Senate Bill 1661 by Governor Gray Davis in 2002, creating the first program of its kind in the United States.

California’s PFL program provides up to eight weeks of benefits to covered workers who need to take time off to engage in a qualifying family or military activity. PFL benefits officially became available to covered workers in California on July 1, 2004.

To be eligible for benefits under California’s PFL program, you must:

  • be unable to do your regular or customary work.
  • have lost wages due to the need to provide care for a seriously ill family member, bond with a new child, or participate in a qualifying event resulting from a family member’s military deployment to a foreign country.
  • be employed or actively looking for work at the time your family leave begins.
  • have earned at least $300 from which State Disability Insurance (SDI) deductions were withheld during your base period.
  • complete and submit your claim form no earlier than the first day your family leave begins, but no later than 41 days after your family leave begins. Otherwise, you may lose benefits.
  • provide a medical certificate on your care claim for the seriously ill family member. The certificate must be completed by the care recipient’s physician/practitioner. A nurse practitioner or physician assistant may certify the need for care within their scope of practice. However, a physical examination must still be performed, and the nurse practitioner or physician assistant must collaborate with a physician or surgeon.

SB 83, signed into law in 2020, extended the maximum duration of PFL benefits from six to eight weeks, giving a parent an additional two weeks to bond with a new child. Birth mothers may take an additional six to eight weeks of leave to recover from childbirth under California’s Disability Insurance program, as a further extension of their bonding time.

The California Legislature should expand SB 83 by 2022 as the law requires that Governor Newsom submit a proposal that adds other benefits and extends Paid Family Leave to six months. These six months are limited to use for bonding purposes and represent the total duration if two parents claim PFL benefits in succession.

On January 1, 2021, the California PFL was expanded through the addition of Military Assist. This new claim allows an employee to receive benefits for leave taken for a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the employee’s family member in the U.S. Armed Forces. This law does not create a right to take a protected leave of absence, only to collect PFL benefits.

As a worker in California, you have many important rights that must be safeguarded around the clock. Even in 2021, many California employers try to work around the requirements of the law to save costs and increase profits. If you believe that your employer is violating the valuable rights possessed by all California employees, call Moss Bollinger for a free consultation to discuss your situation and rights, as well as the solutions related to asserting and defending these rights. Moss Bollinger takes great pride in holding employers accountable for workplace violations that infringe upon the legal protections afforded every California worker. Contact Moss Bollinger today at 866-942-7974 or reach us online.