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How a new state law helps prospective parents who suffer a loss

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Employment Law

Federal and state laws provide multiple types of leave that California employees can take to deal with their own as well as family issues. These aren’t typically required to be paid (although they are in some companies). The idea is to give employees the opportunity to deal with family obligations without worrying about potentially risking their jobs to do so.

At the beginning of this year, California added another type of leave for “reproductive loss.” While these losses – especially when they involve the health of the birth parent – may be covered under other types of leave, the new law creates a distinct category of leave. It addresses the many ways that people add to their family and the fact that when things don’t work out as planned, it can be a difficult loss for both would-be parents.

More about reproductive loss leave

An employee may take up to five days of reproductive loss leave if they and/or their spouse or partner experience any of the following:

  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth of a child
  • Failed adoption
  • Failed surrogacy
  • Unsuccessful reproductive technology procedure

The leave needs to be taken within three months of the loss.

While employers aren’t required to pay employees for this leave, the law states that employees must be allowed to use “certain other leave balances otherwise available” to them, such as “accrued and available paid sick leave.”

Reproductive loss is more common than you might think

People often don’t talk about reproductive loss outside their immediate family or close friend group. One requirement of the law is that employers maintain their employees’ confidentiality if they seek leave for a reproductive loss. They may not feel like discussing it with their co-workers but need a few days off to deal with it. Further, employers can’t retaliate against those who seek this leave.

Another potential benefit of the law is that it may help some employers recognize that any kind of reproductive loss, even if it doesn’t involve the death of a baby (born or unborn), can be devastating. Couples who can’t have children on their own can be distraught by a long-awaited adoption that falls through or a surrogate mother backing out of an agreement. The state senator behind the law says it recognizes “the pain felt by the family, and it gives family time to grieve and try again.”

If you’ve been denied this leave or faced retaliation for taking it, it’s crucial to know and assert your rights. You might benefit from seeking legal guidance as you work through this process.