Bereavement Leave in California

Bereavement leave is time off of work given to an employee after the death of a loved one. This may include the loss of:

  • A spouse or domestic partner,
  • Children,
  • Parents,
  • Siblings, or
  • Other relatives.

Employers in California are not required to provide bereavement leave to employees. Past attempts have been made to pass laws to guarantee this time off from work, but they have been unsuccessful.

Employer Policies

Bereavement leave is time off of work given to an employee after the death of a loved one. This may include:

  • Spouse or domestic partner,
  • Children,
  • Parents,
  • Siblings, or
  • Other relatives.

Employers in California are not required to provide bereavement leave to employees. Past attempts have been made to pass laws to guarantee this time off from work, but they have been unsuccessful. For a general discussion of leave laws, please see our article on workplace leave laws and rights in California.

Employer Policies

Employers instead usually have their own policies for providing bereavement leave to workers. They can create a wide variety of different types, and can differ in:

  • How much time an employee can take off;
  • The types of relatives that may apply toward the policy;
  • How time is taken or requested; or
  • Whether vacation or sick time must be used in place of bereavement time.

Below, our California employment and labor lawyers discuss the following frequently asked questions about bereavement leave for California employees:

Bereavement leave
Employers in California are not required to provide bereavement leave to employees.

1. What is bereavement leave?

Bereavement leave is an amount of time granted to an employee after the lost of a loved one. The loved one who passes usually must be someone in the near and immediate family, such as a:

  • Spouse or Domestic partner,
  • Children,
  • In-laws,
  • Mother,
  • Father,
  • Brother,
  • Sister
  • Grandfather,
  • Grandmother,
  • Aunt,
  • Uncle, or
  • Cousin.

To what degree of relation the deceased person must be before an employee can receive time off for his or her death depends on the policy set by the employer.

2. Is bereavement leave required by law in California?

There exists no law in the State of California which requires employers to grant bereavement time to its employees. This is not necessarily for lack of trying. The California legislature has attempted to pass revisions to the California Labor Code and other laws which would grant this time off to the state's employees. 1

Until someone is successful, no law guarantees an employee the right to bereavement leave. As this is the case, employees must look to the individual policies of their employers to determine what, if any, time off they are entitled to.

3. What do employer bereavement leave policies look like?

Most California employers offer some form of bereavement law policy as a part of the handbook or other policy collection. Some companies set aside a certain number of days that are allowed for each time a loved one passes. Others require that employees use sick or vacation days they have stored up first, and then permit extra days as needed to accommodate for the needed time off.

Employers can create a wide variety of different policies, and can differ in:

  • How much time an employee can take off;
  • The types of relatives that may apply toward the policy;
  • How time is taken or requested; or
  • Whether vacation or sick time must be used in place of bereavement time.

3.1. Where do I find my employer's bereavement leave policy?

If an employer has an official policy, it is likely in the employee handbook or other similar documents. These policies usually are next to other leave 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 smaller businesses. An employer could make case-by-case determinations as to time off in this case, so long as the decision is done for non-discriminatory reasons.

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Call us for help...

For questions about California's bereavement leave laws, or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled California employment attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us at the Shouse Law Group. Please also see our article on jury duty and subpoena leave rights in California and voting leave rights in the California workplace.

We have local law offices in and around Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, San Jose, Oakland, the San Francisco Bay area, and several nearby cities.



Legal References

  1. California Legislative Information. AB-235 Employee's Right to Bereavement Leave.

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