Updates to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

Updates to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

On March 4, 2015, The California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) filed updated regulations for the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to be effective July 1, 2015.  CFRA has not been revised in twenty years and there are three general areas of change.  These updates will better align CFRA with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), clarify the differences between FMLA and CFRA, and clarify confusing areas.

Changes to Better Align CFRA and FMLA. 

  • Employers will be required to respond to CFRA requests within five days instead of ten days.
  • The updated regulations will change how leave entitlement is calculated in order to accommodate variable schedules.
  • The new CFRA regulations will allow employers to retroactively designate leave as CFRA as long as the employee is given notice and it does not do any harm to the employee.
  • The location to which a remote employee is assigned or reports will be considered the employee’s “worksite.”  This update is significant because some employers may see an increase in CFRA eligible employees.
  • A “joint employer” will be defined under CFRA instead of just referencing the definition under FMLA.
  • A “serious health condition” under CFRA is expanded to cover treatment for substance abuse.

Changes to Clarify Differences Between FMLA and CFRA

  • CFRA will continue to provide greater privacy protection for employees.  Under CFRA, employers still cannot ask for a diagnosis or contact the health care provider to clarify information on the medical certification.  Employers can only authenticate information.
  • Second opinions will only be permitted for the employee’s own serious health condition, not for a family member’s serious health condition.
  • The definition of “inpatient care” is being expanded to include the expectation of staying overnight in a facility, even if the patient is released.

Changes to Clarify Confusing Areas of CFRA

  • The definition of “spouse” will include married same-sex partners and registered domestic partners.
  • If an employee is receiving partial wage replacement (disability or paid family leave benefits) during the CFRA leave, employers will be prohibited from requiring California employees to use their accrued vacation or PTO while out on leave.
  • The new regulations will clearly state that fraudulent use of CFRA leave will nullify an employee’s protected job restoration or maintenance of health benefits rights.  (Employers bear the burden of proof).

Since these updated CFRA regulations go into effect on July 1, 2015, employers in California should take a look at current policies to ensure consistency and compliance and have them reviewed by legal counsel.  Please note that the changes listed above are not inclusive of all the changes, but cover many of the key points.  For more information, please see http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/res/docs/FEHC/Final%20Text%20(1).pdf.  Otherwise, please contact the Larkin Company for further information or questions.