California Bereavement Leave Laws

Beginning on January 1, 2023, California labor laws require employers with five (5) or more employees to provide employees with up to five (5) days off work for bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. CA Government Code 12945.7

Covered employees

To be legible for bereavement leave, an employee must be employed by the employer for at least 30 days prior to the leave commencing.

Moreover, the employer must have at least five (5) employees.

Certain government employees that are covered by CA Government 19859.3 are excluded from bereavement leave per CA Government Code 12945.7(a)(1)(B), however, may be eligible for bereavement leave under CA Government 19859.3.

Covered employers

Employers in California must provide employees with at least five (5) days of bereavement leave if they employ five (5) or more wage or salary employees. This includes the State of California and any political or civil subdivision of the state which includes but is not limited to cities and counties. CA Government Code 12945.7(a)(2)

Paid vs. unpaid bereavement leave

Employers must provide employees at least five (5) days of bereavement leave. However, employees are not entitled to paid bereavement leave unless the employer has an existing policy that provides for paid bereavement leave.

Employers are only required to pay for bereavement leave to the extent paid leave is provided. For example, if an existing policy only provides for three (3) paid days for bereavement leave, the employer is only required to provide for three (3) paid days of leave. The employer must allow the employee to take the remain two (2) bereavement leave days; however, the days may be unpaid. CA Government Code 12945.7(e)

Using vacation, sick, and personal leave

Regardless of whether an employer provides paid or unpaid bereavement leave, employers must permit employees to use vacation, personal leave, or accrued and available sick leave that is otherwise available to the employee. CA Government Code 12945.7(e)

Family members covered

For bereavement leave purposes, a family member includes a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law as defined in CA Government Code 12945.2. CA Government Code 12945.7(a)(3)

Bereavement leave rights, requirements, and limitations

When taking bereavement leave, the following rights, requirements, and limitations apply:

  • the bereavement days taken are not required to be consecutive
  • the bereavement days must be taken within three (3) months of the date of the family member’s death
  • the bereavement must be taken consistent with their employer’s existent bereavement leave policy
  • an employer may require an employee to provide documentation of the death of the family member within 30 days of the first day of the leave
    • acceptable documentation includes, but is not limited to, a death certificate, a published obituary, or written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution, or governmental agency.

CA Government Code 12945.7

Confidential information

An employer must keep confidential any information about an employee’s request to take bereavement leave. An employer may only disclose confidential information if disclosed to internal personnel or counsel or as required by law. CA Government Code 12945.7(i)

Discrimination and retaliation protection

An employer may not refuse to hire, discharge, demote, fine, suspend, expel, or discriminate against an employee because the employee:

  • exercised the right to bereavement leave
  • gives information or testimony as to their own bereavement leave, or another person’s bereavement leave, in an inquiry or proceeding related to bereavement leave rights

CA Government Code 12945.7(g)

Collective bargaining agreements

An employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is excluded from the bereavement leave requirements if the CBA:

  • expressly provides for bereavement leave benefits equivalent to the benefits required by the law
  • provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of the employees, and
  • provides premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, where applicable, and
  • provides a regular hourly rate of pay for those employees of not less than 30 percent above the state minimum wage.

CA Government Code 12945.7(5)

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