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What California's New Parental Leave Law Means For Employers

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown signed the New Parent Leave Act into law, which expands California's parental leave law to include bonding time after the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child for adoption for new parents. As many as 2.8 million employees may be affected by the new law, according to The Sacramento Bee. What does this mean for their employers?

The new law expands protections under the state's existing parental leave law to cover workers at many additional small businesses and provide for post-birth bonding leave, as opposed to only pregnancy disability leave. Here are four important things employers need to know:

1. The new law only affects businesses that employ between 20 and 49 workers. Existing law requires guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid bonding leave to workers at companies with 50 or more employees. The new law extends this requirement to businesses with between 20 and 49 employees at a single worksite or within a 75 mile radius. There is no change for an employer of less than 20 employees.

2. Affected employers must allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave - and have a job when they return. There are a few caveats: this requirement only applies to workers who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months for your company and have worked for your company for at least one year.

3. All types of parents are eligible. The law applies to birth and non-birth parents alike, as well as married and unmarried parents, including parents who adopt a child or have a foster child placed with them.

4. Employers may enter mediation before facing a lawsuit. As part of the new law, there is a mediation pilot program in effect until 2020 that allows employers to enter into mediation with employees and attempt to resolve any issues prior to litigation.

Past versions of the law did not include the mediation component, leaving many small businesses worried about the prospect of lawsuits. If you have any questions or concerns about how the new law will affect your particular business, including how to navigate communications with employees regarding this leave and their return to work, how this unpaid leave interacts with any paid leave the employee is entitled to, and how the mediation process will work, an employment lawyer can help make sure your business is in compliance with the new law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018.

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