The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) guarantees you (if eligible) five days of unpaid bereavement leave from work after the death of your:
- Spouse or domestic partner,
- Grandchild, and/or
Below, our California employment law attorneys will answer the following key faqs about bereavement leave for employees:
- 1. Is bereavement leave mandatory in California?
- 2. How soon do I have to take it?
- 3. Is bereavement leave paid?
- 4. Where do I find my employer’s bereavement leave policy?
- 5. What family members qualify for bereavement leave?
- 6. How long is the leave?
- 7. Can my employer require proof of the death?
- 8. Is bereavement leave job-protected?
- 9. What if my employer denies me bereavement leave?
- Additional resources
Yes. As of January 1, 2023, California law requires private employers with at least five or more employees to provide up to five days of bereavement leave.
Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave to you if you worked for them for fewer than 30 days.
AB 1949 also does not apply to you if you are covered under a collective bargaining agreement that provides for:
- a bereavement leave policy that allows for at least five days of bereavement leave;
- your working conditions, hours, and wages; and
- premium wages for overtime and a regular hourly wage of at least 1.3 times the minimum wage.
Finally, AB 1949 does not apply to state employees who are eligible for bereavement leave under Government Code section 19859.3.1
You must take bereavement leave within three months of the death. You have the choice to take off the days
- altogether or
- separately over the three months.
AB 1949 does not require that your five days of bereavement leave be paid. However, you are free to use your paid vacation and sick days for bereavement purposes.
Prior to this new law, many California companies already offered bereavement leave – and some of these policies are paid.
If an employer has an existing policy, it is likely in the employee handbook or other similar documents. These bereavement policies usually are next to other types of leave of absence policies, such as:
- Sick Leave
- Voting Leave
- New Parent Leave
- Pregnancy Leave
- Family and Medical Leave
- Jury duty or subpoena leave
If you are unsure where to look, ask your human resources representative at your place of employment. Your human resources representative is the best source for figuring out what the policy is if you do not already know.
In some cases, the policy may be much more unofficial, especially in small businesses. An employer could make case-by-case determinations so long as the decision is not done for discriminatory reasons.
Note that if your employer offers four or fewer days of paid bereavement leave, you can still take a total of five days off: But those additional days will be unpaid.
For purposes of bereavement leave under AB 1949, family members are limited to your deceased:
- domestic partner, or
You can take five days of leave for each covered family member who dies. So if two family members die in one year, the number of days you can take off that year is ten.
Employers must allow at least five days of bereavement leave for the death of a family member who passed away. Some companies provide more time or allow bereavement leave for extended family, such as cousins.
Note that if you take bereavement leave, it will not eat into any other leave time you are entitled to under:
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
- Family and Medical Leave (FMLA)
- Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)
Yes, your employer can ask to see proof that your family member died. Examples include:
- death certificate
- published obituary
- written verification of death, burial, or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution or government agency.
If requested, you must provide this documentation within 30 days of your first day of bereavement leave. Your employer must keep this documentation confidential.
Yes, your employer must return to your same or similar job when you return from bereavement leave. Employers may not retaliate or discriminate against you if you take bereavement leave.
If your employer will not let you take bereavement leave – or if they are discriminating or retaliating against you for taking bereavement leave – you can either:
- file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD) for them to investigate and resolve your case, or
- obtain a right-to-sue letter from the CRD so you can file your own lawsuit.
We can discuss which route would be best for your particular case.
If you recently lost someone, find information and help here:
- What Are the Symptoms of Bereavement? – Article by PsychCentral.
- Bereavement and Complicated Grief – Article in Current Psychiatry Reports.
- Bereavement: Grieving the Loss of a Loved One – Article by HelpGuide.org.
- Bereavement and Grief – Overview by Mental Health America.
- Bereavement articles – Compiled by Science Direct.
- AB-1949 (2022), a new law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Government Code section 12945.7. CA Code of Regulations 599.923. Note that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – a federal law – does not include bereavement leave. Oregon and Maryland do have bereavement leave laws.
- See, for example, Campbell v. City of Monrovia, (Second Appellate District, Division Two, 1978) 84 Cal. App. 3d 341.
- See also Lares v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Second Appellate District, Division Four, 2020) 56 Cal. App. 5th 318.