Those of us who live and work outside the great state of California often look to that state’s laws and judicial decisions as potential harbingers of similar directions other states may follow in the future. For employers, California presents a version of how far pro-labor employment laws can extend. Last week, California continued this trend by adopting what appears to be the nation’s first state law that mandates leave for employees based on the death of a relative.
The new bereavement leave law amends California’s existing paid leave statute to add leave entitlement of up to five days per year. The leave may be used by employees who experience the death of a parent, spouse, child, grandparent, parent-in-law, sibling, or domestic partner. While the leave is unpaid, employees can use paid leave accruals for this purpose. The bereavement leave may be taken intermittently, and there is no limit on the number of family deaths for which the leave can be used. Employers cannot take adverse action against employees who exercise their rights under the law.
It’s unlikely that a large number of states will immediately follow California’s lead on this issue. However, in recent years, several states have adopted paid leave laws similar in some respects to California’s entitlement. At a minimum, some states with more progressive labor policies are likely to look to the new California law as a model for similar legislative measures in different parts of the U.S.