Existing California law provides employees with the right to take paid and unpaid leaves to care for certain family members when they need the employee’s assistance to obtain medical treatment, diagnosis, or preventative care.  On September 29, 2022, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 1041, which adds a “designated person” to the list of individuals for whom an employee may take California Family Rights Act or use paid sick leave.

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), California public employers and private employers with 5 or more employees are required to grant up to 12 workweeks of unpaid time off to employees who qualify, for family care and medical leave.  Employees may take CFRA leave to care for defined family members.  Now, AB 1041 has added to the list of defined family members,  to include a “designated person.” A “designated person” is any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.  This person can be designated at the time of requesting leave. However, employers may limit employees to one designated person per 12-month period.  This does not increase the number of total workweeks available for CFRA leave (which may be taken intermittently).

Also, under California’s state paid sick leave law (the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014), employees who work in California for an employer for 30 or more days within a year are entitled to accrue and use paid sick days for diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of, or preventive care for, an employee or an employee’s “family member”. Existing law defines “family member” to include individuals who share a prescribed relationship with the employee (parent, child, etc.).  Now, the definition of the term “family member” includes a “designated person”.  Of note, this definition is broader than the CFRA definition – for purposes of use of paid sick leave, as worded, the “designated person” can apparently be any person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days (although “designated person” falls under the definition of “family member”).  However, employers may limit employees to one designated person per 12-month period.  And again, this does not increase the number of total paid sick days available.  Notably, some local paid sick leave ordinances, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, already include their own definitions of “designated person.” Employers subject to both state and local ordinances will have to adopt the most expansive definition.

We recommend that California employers contact their Weintraub Tobin employment lawyer to update their handbooks and paid sick leave policies immediately, both to include the new definitions and to limit the number of “designated persons” to one per 12-month period.  We also recommend employers ensure that all supervisors and HR professionals are aware of these new definitions so that they do not inadvertently deny employees’ leave requests for “designated persons”.