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Understanding California’s new reproductive loss leave

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2024 | Pregnancy Discrimination

With the start of the year, California employees who suffer any kind of “reproductive loss” can take a little time off from work to grieve and process what has happened. Under the new law, employers are required to provide five days of reproductive loss leave to any prospective parent, regardless of gender, who has suffered a loss. 

This leave, which doesn’t have to be paid, can be used for miscarriages, stillbirths and failed in vitro fertilization (IVF), adoption or surrogacy. Employees are allowed to take this leave any time up to three months after the loss occurred. They can take a total of 20 days within one year (five days per quarter). That means if they try to adopt or do IVF again unsuccessfully, for example, they don’t have to worry that they used up their leave the first time.

Some California employees may see little or no difference if they get a fair amount of paid vacation, sick days and personal days. The law notes that employees can use “certain other leave balances otherwise available…,” such as sick leave. For those in jobs where it can be a challenge to take any time off, even unpaid, it can make a difference to have this available.

The law recognizes the many ways people bring children into the family

The law can also help those who may have employers who aren’t particularly knowledgeable about all the ways people go about building their families or don’t understand how an anticipated adoption that doesn’t go through or the loss of a child being carried by a surrogate can be devastating. Miscarriages and stillbirths aren’t just traumatic for the mother, but for both parents. The state senator behind the law says that it takes into account “the pain felt by the family, and it gives family time to grieve and try again.”

The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who asks to use this leave. Further, it requires them to maintain their employees’ confidentiality. 

While the law is still new, California employers should be aware of it. Nonetheless, it’s important for employees who may need to use this leave to understand their rights under the law and be able to asset them. If you have been denied this leave or faced retaliation for seeking or taking the leave, it may be a good idea to get legal guidance.