If you looked for information on the bereavement law for California, you probably had a difficult time finding a legal document on the books. California, like many other states, doesn't have a formal policy. However, many employers have standards in place that allow workers to take time off when a close family member dies. This leave usually includes time for individuals to prepare for, travel to/from and attend the funeral.
California Bereavement Laws
Even though California doesn't have a protocol in place, there was a time when lawmakers tried to establish one. In 2007, Senate Bill 549 was introduced by Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), who stated: "Without legislation providing the right to bereavement leave, an employer may legally discharge an employee for requesting or taking any leave of absence to prepare or attend the funeral of a loved one." The bill offered California employees the right to take off four unpaid days from work due to the death of a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, grandparent or grandchild. The bill wouldn't guarantee a worker's pay for his or her time away, but it would safeguard the job.
However, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed this bill because he felt most California business owners already have standard bereavement leave policies in place and approving this legislation would add confusion. "Instead of expanding the confusing network of laws that presently exist, employers and employees should be working together to eliminate confusion and create a system of workplace laws that protect workers, provides reasonable leave requirements, and offers both employers and employees flexibility to meet their respective needs," he wrote in his veto.
What Most Employers Offer
Most business owners in California offer some sort of bereavement leave package for their employees, who typically utilize unused personal, sick and vacation time when they need to attend a funeral. However, if that time is not available, and a protocol is not in place, a worker risks losing his or her job by taking this time off.
For those companies that have bereavement leave policies in place, documentation of the loved one's death -- usually a copy of the obituary is sufficient -- may be required. Anywhere from one to four days (either paid or unpaid) is usually permitted for the following immediate family members:
- Husband or wife
- Domestic partner (in most cases)
- Mother- or father-in-law
- Brother- or sister-in-law
Some employers even allow a one-day leave of absence for workers to attend the funeral of non-immediate family member.
Sample Bereavement Law for California Universities
The California State University system has a very clear bereavement policy in place for its workers. It includes up to five paid days off (time allowed depends on job category within the university system) for the funeral of an immediate family member or significantly close relative. This includes two days for the funeral events and three days for travel, if the funeral is more than a 500-mile round trip. This policy is for all full- and part-time eligible employees, and the time off does not go against any personal, sick or vacation days that are accrued.
Why Employers May Not Like Bereavement Laws
Even though there aren't any federal or state bereavement leave policies in place to which California employers must adhere, most employers will allow their employees to take time off to attend a funeral. However, in some professions, this can cause a hardship for the company. For instance, if employees are allowed to take up to five days off with pay, a temporary employee may be hired or another worker may have to work overtime to make up the hours and the work. This goes for employees who use vacation, sick or personal time to attend a funeral.
That extra money used to pay for another employee has to come out of the company's bottom line. This is why some company owners do not offer bereavement leave packages or want a law passed in their state. They don't want to be required to spend the extra money.
Bereavement Leave vs. Family and Medical Leave Act
In 2004, California became the first state in the union to offer paid family leave under conditions outlined in the national Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act. Qualified employees receive up to six weeks of Family Temporary Disability Insurance over a one-year period to care for a family member. However, this does not cover bereavement leave. Workers can care for a family member who is dying, but once that individual passes, he or she must take bereavement leave -- paid or unpaid depending on the company. Employees in this situation should look into their company's protocol before taking the time off.
A Final Note
While there is not a bereavement law for California available, individuals applying for jobs should inquire about the company's policy ahead of time. Unfortunately, at some time in their lives, everyone will attend the funeral of a close family member . It is best to be prepared at work when this tragedy happens. Most human resources departments should have this information readily available.