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How Will the California ‘Family Caregiver’ Bill Affect HR?

Human Resources Director

A new California bill that will grant workers protection for “family caregiver status” has left the senate floor and is awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. If it is approved by the October 14 deadline, the “vague and nebulous” bill could open the door for a whole new host of litigation for employers, say some.

The bill, AB 524, if approved by Newsom, designates “family caregiver status” as a protected class under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA); the bill will lead to litigation and pressure on employers to define the parameters, said Travis Jang-Busby, partner at Blank Rome in L.A.

“[Bill] 524 is a crazy bill,” Jang-Busby said in an interview with HRD. “You've got on one hand a nebulous kind of application, and a nebulous group of people to whom the family caregiver status could apply … that is going to be very difficult for employers, because we don't know what the definition of family caregiving activities are. And when you apply that nebulous definition of caregiving activities, and a nebulous definition of designated persons, the potential for accommodations or potential accommodations is infinite. I mean, you can't even predict the type of issues that employers are going to have to address.”

New bill will be tested in court by family caregiver discrimination lawsuits

Additionally, Jang-Busby adds that this bill circumvents existing time limits to family care leave granted by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Those statutes guarantee 12 weeks of protected leave for workers to care for family members with serious health conditions. Last year, the CFRA added “designated person” to the list of persons eligible for care.

“If you look down the road at where this is headed, it's really going to be the judiciary that's going to be shaping how this law impacts California and employers and employees,” Jang-Busby said.

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"How Will the California ‘Family Caregiver’ Bill Affect HR?" by  was published in Human Resources Director on September 26, 2023.