An amendment to the California Labor Code mandating temporary leaves of absence for firefighters, reserve peace officers, and emergency rescue personnel (Labor Code Section 230.4) will become effective on January 1, 2014.

A.B. 11, signed by Governor Jerry Brown, amends the Labor Code to require employers with at least 50 employees to provide temporary leaves of absence of up to 14 days per calendar year to employees who serve as volunteer firefighters, reserve peace officers or emergency rescue personnel for the purpose of engaging in fire, law enforcement or emergency rescue training. The prior legislation applied only to volunteer firefighters and did not cover “emergency rescue training.” 

Under the new law, employers are prohibited from discharging, demoting, suspending or otherwise discriminating against employees who take time off to engage in fire, law enforcement, or emergency rescue training. Aggrieved employees may file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner and are entitled to reinstatement, lost wages and work benefits for violations.

California employers should consider updating their leave policies to include the additional categories of employees eligible for this leave. Training supervisors regarding the expansion of this law also should be considered.