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

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The California Senate’s Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee on Tuesday passed AB 1949, which would guarantee workers of employers with five or more employees can take at least five days of unpaid bereavement leave. The bill, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), would also ensure workers could use other available paid leave, like sick, vacation or personal days, for bereavement.

Under current law, most workers in California have no right to bereavement leave — paid or unpaid — when a close family member dies. 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 lose a family member — whether to homicide, illness or any other reason — still do not have the right to take time off to make funeral arrangements or to grieve.

AB 1949 would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 5 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. The bill would also require the employer to maintain employee confidentiality relating to bereavement leave. The bill is 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:

“All workers deserve the right to take time off to grieve a loved one’s death without the risk of being fired for it. This is particularly important in the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and violent crime because a key piece of protecting the peace, stability and safety of these neighborhoods is ensuring survivors have the opportunity to start to heal.”