Understanding Bereavement Leave California: A Guide for Employees

bereavement leave california

Losing a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences anyone can face. During such times, it’s crucial to have the space and support needed to grieve and attend to familial matters. In California, employees are entitled to bereavement leave to cope with the loss of a family member. Understanding the intricacies of bereavement leave in California is essential for employees navigating these difficult circumstances.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the nuances of bereavement leave, including its scope, eligibility criteria, duration, and employer obligations under California law.

Understanding AB 1949: Expanding Bereavement Leave Rights

Assembly Bill 1949, also known as AB 1949, significantly impacts bereavement leave rights for California employees. Signed into law in recent years, AB 1949 extends the rights of employees to take bereavement leave for the death of a family member.

Under AB 1949, employers with five or more employees must provide eligible employees with up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. This bereavement leave law represents a significant advancement in employee rights concerning bereavement leave, offering much-needed support during challenging times.

Is Bereavement Leave Mandatory in California?

One of the first questions employees often ask is whether bereavement leave is mandatory in California. The answer is not straightforward. Unlike some states where specific bereavement leave laws exist, such as Oregon or Illinois, California does not have a standalone law mandating bereavement leave for private employers.

However, this doesn’t mean that California employees are left without recourse when dealing with the loss of a family member. Several laws and regulations govern bereavement leave indirectly, ensuring that employees have avenues to take time off to mourn and attend to funeral arrangements.

Eligibility for Bereavement Leave

To qualify for bereavement leave under California law, certain eligibility criteria must be met. Generally, eligible employees are those who work for employers with five or more employees. It’s important to note that AB 1949 applies to both full-time and part-time employees, ensuring that all workers have access to bereavement leave when needed. AB 1949 also does not apply to you if you are covered under a collective bargaining agreement.

Family Members Covered Under Bereavement Leave

California law specifies which family members’ deaths qualify for bereavement leave. Covered family members typically include:

  • Spouse

  • Domestic partner

  • Child

  • Parent

  • Sibling

  • Grandparent

  • Grandchild

This expansive definition encompasses immediate family members as well as close relatives, recognizing the diverse familial relationships individuals may have.

Duration of Bereavement Leave

Under AB 1949, eligible employees are entitled to up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a covered family member. These days can be taken consecutively or separately, depending on the employee’s needs and the employer’s bereavement leave policy.

Paid vs. Unpaid Bereavement Leave

One common concern among employees is whether bereavement leave in California is paid or unpaid. Unlike some states that mandate paid bereavement leave, such as Oregon or Washington, California does not require employers to provide paid bereavement leave.

However, many employers choose to offer paid bereavement leave as part of their employee benefits package. Additionally, eligible employees may be able to use accrued paid time off, such as sick leave or vacation days, to receive compensation while on bereavement leave.

Employer’s Bereavement Leave Policy

Employers in California are required to have a bereavement leave policy in place to guide employees on their rights and obligations when dealing with the loss of a family member. This policy should outline:

  • Eligibility criteria for bereavement leave

  • Duration of bereavement leave

  • Procedure for requesting bereavement leave

  • Documentation requirements, if any

  • Whether bereavement leave is paid or unpaid

Employees should familiarize themselves with their employer’s bereavement leave policy to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities during difficult times.

Proof of Death and Bereavement Leave

In some cases, employers may require proof of the family member’s death before granting bereavement leave. This requirement helps prevent abuse of bereavement leave and ensures that employees are using it for its intended purpose.

Acceptable forms of proof may include:

  • Death certificate

  • Published obituary

  • Written verification from a funeral home or religious institution

Employees should follow their employer’s specific guidelines for providing proof of death when requesting bereavement leave.

Job Protection During Bereavement Leave

A common concern among employees taking bereavement leave is whether their job will be protected during their absence. In California, eligible employees are entitled to job-protected bereavement leave under certain circumstances.

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), eligible employees who work for covered employers are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave for qualifying reasons, including the death of a family member. While bereavement leave itself may be limited to five days under AB 1949, employees may be able to take additional leave under CFRA if needed.

What to Do If Bereavement Leave Is Denied

If an employer denies an employee’s request for bereavement leave or violates their rights under California law, the employee may have recourse. One option is to seek legal counsel to understand their rights and explore potential legal remedies.

Employees may also file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office or pursue a lawsuit against their employer for wrongful denial of bereavement leave. In some cases, employees may be entitled to damages, reinstatement, or other remedies for violations of their rights.

How an Attorney Can Help You Navigate Bereavement Leave in California

Losing a loved one is an emotionally challenging experience, made even more complex when navigating the legalities of bereavement leave in California. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, you can gain clarity on your rights, negotiate with your employer for fair treatment, and ensure that you receive the support you deserve. Here’s how an attorney can assist you in navigating bereavement leave in California.

  1. Legal Guidance: Attorneys provide clear legal advice on eligibility, duration, and documentation requirements for bereavement leave under California law.

  2. Policy Review: They review employer policies to ensure compliance with state regulations and advocate for fair treatment of employees.

  3. Negotiation: Attorneys negotiate with employers to secure reasonable accommodations, such as additional time off, to meet employees’ needs during bereavement.

  4. Dispute Resolution: In cases of denial or restriction of bereavement leave, attorneys represent employees in disputes and legal proceedings, filing complaints and pursuing legal action as necessary.

  5. Protection from Retaliation: Attorneys safeguard employees from employer retaliation for asserting their rights to bereavement leave or pursuing legal remedies.

  6. Maximizing Benefits: Attorneys help employees identify and pursue all available avenues for maximizing compensation and benefits under California law, ensuring fair treatment during a difficult time.

bereavement leave california

Empower Your Bereavement Leave Journey with BLG

Navigating bereavement leave in California can be challenging, especially during times of emotional distress. However, understanding your rights and obligations under California law is essential for ensuring that you receive the support you need when dealing with the loss of a family member.

By familiarizing yourself with AB 1949, your employer’s bereavement leave policy, and the resources available to you, you can confidently take time off to grieve and attend to familial matters without worrying about jeopardizing your job or financial security. If you encounter any issues or have questions about bereavement leave, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from legal experts who can provide personalized advice and support tailored to your situation.

Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, but navigating bereavement leave shouldn’t add to your burden. Our experienced legal team at BLG, understand the complexities of California’s employment laws, including those related to bereavement leave.

Contact us today for a free consultation.


What are the rules for bereavement leave in California?

Employers under the mandate must grant you bereavement leave in the event of the passing of your spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. However, employers may also opt to offer bereavement leave for the loss of other individuals with whom you share a significant relationship.

What is the new bereavement leave in California 2023?

Starting January 1, 2023, California mandates that private employers with a minimum of five employees offer up to five days of bereavement leave.

What is the bereavement of a family member?

Bereavement of a family member refers to the period of mourning following the death of a loved one. It’s a time for family members and friends to grieve and process their loss. Employers may offer bereavement leave to allow employees to attend funerals, make arrangements, and cope with their emotions.

Related Posts

Free Case Evaluation

The evaluation is FREE! You do not have to pay anything to have an attorney evaluate your case.