California DFEH Announces Pregnancy and Bonding Leave App
On March 24, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) announced a new interactive tool for obtaining tailored guidance on job-protected leave for pregnancy-related disability or to bond with a new child. The aptly-named “New-Parents Rights Advisor” is free and accessible online and intended to help employees and employers understand their rights and obligations pursuant to California law.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires covered employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to bond with a new child. California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) provides up to 4 months (17.3 weeks) of leave for a pregnancy-related disability. However, determining whether an employer is “covered,” the employee’s eligibility, and the amount of leave to which an employee may be entitled depends on certain requirements and qualifying events under the applicable laws. The legal framework can be confusing to both employees and employers.
The New-Parents Rights Advisor is designed to make it easier to determine an employee’s eligibility for leave, the amount of leave to which the employee may be entitled, and how the leave can be taken. Users respond “yes” or “no” to several question prompts and the New-Parents Rights Advisor provides a tailored report with links to additional resources. The process typically takes less than five minutes. Employers also can use the New-Parents Rights Advisor as a free quick-reference guide to California law.
Importantly, the New-Parents Rights Advisor does not address job-protected leave for other qualifying events under CFRA, such as the employee’s own serious health condition, or track employee leave requests, such as whether an employee previously took leave under CFRA within a 12-month period. It also does not address extenuating circumstances that may justify additional leave beyond the four month “maximum” for a pregnancy-related disability as a reasonable accommodation. Nor is the New-Parents Rights Advisor a substitute for an employer’s updated leave-related policies and procedures. Employers must continue to maintain their own statutorily-compliant policies and systems to track employee eligibility and leave.
In sum, the New-Parents Rights Advisor can serve as a quick-reference guide for employers and employees for questions pertaining to pregnancy-related disability and baby bonding. The custom report may be a useful starting point for determining eligibility and obtaining a general summary of rights and obligations.
However, employers may find that its functionality is limited.