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New California Law Expands Paid Family Leave Benefits for Military Families


California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program provides employees who are already covered by State Disability Insurance with benefits in the event they need time off from work to deal with a family member’s serious health condition or to bond with a new child. Under current law, PFL benefits replace between 60 and 70 percent of the employee’s lost income. And starting in 2021, these same PFL benefits will be available to people who need time off to help the families of active duty members of the U.S. armed forces adjust to their deployment.

Dealing with “Qualifying Exigencies” Arising from a Family Member’s Military Deployment

In September 2018, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1123, which expands PFL coverage to a “qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of the individual’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States.” For example, if your spouse is called to active duty and deployed overseas, you will be able to receive PFL benefits if you need time off from work to make legal, financial, or childcare arrangements related to the deployment.

Some of the more specific PFL scenarios anticipated by SB 1123 include:

  • You need to enroll your child in a new school or day care facility.
  • You need to attend meetings at your child’s school or day care facility to address disciplinary matters or other parent-teacher issues.
  • You need to arrange for the admission of a parent to an adult care facility, or meet with other social service providers on behalf of a parent.
  • You need to see an estate planning lawyer to update your will, trust, or power of attorney.
  • You need to act as a representative of your deployed spouse or family member before the armed forces or another government agency in order to seek military benefits.
  • You need to attend an arrival ceremony or a “reintegration briefing” after your spouse or family member returns from his or her deployment.
  • You need to deal with the death of a family member who was deployed, e.g., recovering the body and making funeral arrangements.

Again, it is critical to emphasize that any of these situations must be related to the spouse or family member’s active military deployment. As the sponsor of SB 1123, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, explained, “It is our responsibility to ease the transition as families prepare for deployment. SB 1123 will ensure family members are supported as they take the time they need to prepare for the challenges ahead.”

New Law Does Not Take Effect Until 2021

The new military-deployment provisions of Paid Family Leave will not take effect this year. SB 1123 has an effective date of January 1, 2021. But employees with family members in the military should take note of the law now and understand their future rights. And if you have additional questions or concerns, you should contact a qualified California employment law attorney right away.




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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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