AB 1949 allows workers to take unpaid bereavement leave when a close family member dies

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed AB 1949, guaranteeing that most workers across California can take at least five days of unpaid bereavement leave upon the death of a close family member. 

The bill, authored by Asm. Evan Low (D-Campbell), also ensures workers will be able to use other available paid leave, like sick, vacation or personal days, for bereavement. 

Under previous law, most workers in California had no right to bereavement leave — paid or unpaid — when a close family member died. In 2020, Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, the state and nation’s largest network of crime victims, successfully advocated for legislation guaranteeing family members of homicide victims can take time off to access victim services or deal with legal issues. However, other employees who lost a family member — whether to homicide, illness or any other reason — still did not have the right to take time off to make funeral arrangements or to grieve. 

The new law makes it an illegal employment practice for an employer with at least five employees to deny a request by an eligible employee to take up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law. It also requires the employer to maintain employee confidentiality relating to bereavement leave. AB 1949 was co-sponsored by Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, California Employment Lawyers Association, Legal Aid at Work and Equal Rights Advocates.

The following can be attributed to Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice:  “Californians who are suffering from the loss of a loved one deserve the right to take a few days to grieve without worrying about losing their job. This is particularly important for those communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent uptick in violent crime. Ensuring all people have the opportunity to heal is key to protecting the peace, stability and safety of our neighborhoods. Unaddressed grief can lead to longstanding mental health and emotional issues, as well as contact with the justice system – all of which can exacerbate cycles of crime.”