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What practice owners need to know about the CFRA expansion that takes effect Jan. 1, 2021

December 22, 2020 3229

Quick Summary:

Dental practice owners should be prepared for major changes to the California Family Rights Act. CDA has you covered with new resources, tips to avoid the most common CFRA mistakes and a compliance checklist.

Dental practice owners should be prepared for major changes to the California Family Rights Act. The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2021, and will impact very small businesses, including dental practices with just five or more employees, who will soon be required to provide 12 workweeks of job-protected unpaid family leave benefits to eligible employees annually.

The CFRA’s provisions currently apply to employers with 50 or more employees and provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave that eligible employees can take for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child, for their own serious health condition or to care for a specified family member with a serious health condition. CFRA currently defines “family member” to include a minor child, dependent adult child, spouse or parent.

But Gov. Gavin Newsom in September signed into law Senate Bill 1383 (Jackson, D-Santa Barbara), which does the following:

  • Lowers the CFRA threshold to employers with five or more employees.
  • Eliminates the requirement that eligible employees work at a location where the employer has 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.
  • Significantly expands the definition of “family members” to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and domestic partners.
  • Expands the definition of “child” to cover all adult children, regardless of whether they are dependent, and children of a domestic partner.
  • Allows 12 weeks of baby-bonding leave for both parents, even if they work for the same employer. Currently, parents have to split the leave time.
  • Adds leave for certain qualifying reasons related to the active military duty of an employee's spouse, domestic partner, child or parent.

CFRA compliance checklist

Now is the time for practice owners to review their policies and protocols to ensure they are compliant with the changes.

To get started, practice owners should:

  • Read the text of California Senate Bill 1383
  • Read the DFEH proposed regulations
  • Draft a compliant CFRA/PDL policy or update current manual to include new CFRA provisions (Included in the 2021 updates to CDA’s Sample Employee Manual)
  • Become familiar with response timelines and prepare appropriate forms
  • Ensure the required posters are ready to post or distribute
  • Determine and prepare a method to track and document employee CFRA-related leaves
  • Review all employees currently on leave to determine how SB 1383 may affect them
  • Ensure at least one person in the practice is trained on leave administration
  • Inform and train staff on the new CFRA provisions

Tips to avoid common CFRA management mistakes 

CFRA administration can be complicated. To remain in compliance and avoid common CFRA-management mistakes, practice owners should:

  • Designate CFRA eligibility in writing
  • Have a policy that employees may not work for another employer while on CFRA leave
  • Keep track of CFRA leaves individually
  • Obtain appropriate medical documentation for medically related leaves of absence
  • Not count workers’ compensation leave as CFRA leave
  • Not terminate an employee who has exhausted their CFRA leave or has not returned from CFRA leave without consulting an employment law attorney

Mediation pilot program established for alleged CFRA violations 

To address concerns about the liability of small businesses if they fail to comply with the CFRA, another bill signed this year (Assembly Bill 1867) was amended to include a state-run mediation program for alleged CFRA violations.

The pilot program only applies to employers with five to 19 employees and grants an employer 30 days to request mediation through the Department of Fair Employment and Housing if an employee alleges that a CFRA violation has occurred.

Both parties will be prohibited from entering into civil court procedures unless DFEH determines they have exhausted their mediation efforts.

The program will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2024.

New CFRA resources available to member dentists

CDA Practice Support has developed resources to educate member dentists and help them transition to the new requirements ahead of Jan. 2021, including:

CDA Practice Support analysts are also available to CDA members for one-on-one support.