Bereavement Leave Rights in California Made Simple

bereavement leave CaliforniaCalifornia law on bereavement leave at work can be divided into two categories: private and public employment.

If you are an employee at a private company, as of this date, your employer has no obligation to provide any bereavement leave, although the employer may choose to include time off for bereavement as one of the benefits of employment with them. Employers who provide this benefits generally have a full discretion on how long that leave might be, and they can also choose when to grant and when to deny it. Even if the employer violates his own policy and doesn’t provide any bereavement leave when the employee handbook states that the company does, this cannot form a basis for any type of legal claim against the employer, because violating company’s own policies, is not the same as violating the law and it’s not actionable in court.

If you are a state worker (with limited exceptions) you have the right to bereavement leave that’s governed by Government Code 19859.3. That sections provide, among other things:

“…(bereavement leave) shall be granted with pay for the death of a person related by blood, adoption, or marriage, or any person residing in the immediate household of the employee at the time of death. The employee shall give advance notice to the employee’s immediate supervisor and shall provide substantiation to support the request…. For any one occurrence, the bereavement leave shall not exceed three days. However, if the death occurred outside this state, a request for two additional days of bereavement leave shall be granted, at the option of the employee, as either without pay or as a charge against any accrued sick leave credit… If additional bereavement leave is necessary, the employee may use accrued vacation, compensating time off, or take an authorized leave without pay, subject to the approval of the appointing power.” 

This law allows most state workers to take 3 paid days off for bereavement of a wide circle of people, which includes pretty much all blood and adopted relatives and also anyone who lives in the same household with the employee at the time of death, which can potentially include roommates, guests, etc.

Going back to private employers – even though employers are not obligated to provide bereavement leave, on a practical level it’s a good idea to consider granting an employee, who is grieving the loss of a loved one, some time off to recover from that event, even if it’s unpaid, to show basic consideration and sensitivity to that worker, and maintain his or her good morale.