Although there have been a few efforts to pass a bill, there currently is no California law that mandates bereavement leave for private-sector employees. State employees, on the other hand, are entitled to paid bereavement leave. Private-sector employers that do provide bereavement pay should follow specific guidelines to avoid misunderstanding or threats of legal action.
There have been several state and federal attempts to institute a mandatory bereavement leave policy, but each has been unsuccessful. In 2010, the California Legislature passed a bill --AB 2340-- that would have allowed up to three days of unpaid bereavement leave for all employees in California. However, the bill was vetoed by the Governor. A similar bill was passed in 2011 but also vetoed. A federal Parental Bereavement Act, which would have mandated bereavement time for the death of a child, was introduced to Congress in 2013 but was never enacted.
California state employees are entitled to three days of paid bereavement leave per calendar year. Employees can use the bereavement leave to handle the funeral arrangements or grieve the death of a family member, including blood relatives, adopted relatives, relatives by marriage, domestic partnership or any person in the employee's immediate household. Notice is required before the employee can take the leave, and evidence of death also may be requested. For deaths that occur outside of California, state employees are entitled to an additional two days of unpaid bereavement leave. State employees also may use paid sick leave or vacation days to cover unpaid bereavement leave if approved by a supervisor.
Optional Employer Policies
Despite the lack of regulation, many employers choose to offer either paid or unpaid bereavement leave to employees. When doing so, employers must offer and enforce the policy consistently for all employees to avoid any allegations of discrimination. To avoid confusion, California Employment Advisor recommends that employers define what friends or family members the employee can use the bereavement leave for. The policy also should specify if the leave will be paid, how many days off can be taken, and whether or not any documentation of the death will be required.