Last week, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill providing new leave rights for spouses of members of the armed forces, the National Guard, and the Reserves. The new bill takes effect immediately.

Requirements for Covered Employers

The bill applies to employers with at least 25 employees. A covered employer must allow an eligible employee to take up to 10 days off work, on an unpaid basis, to spend time with a spouse who is home on leave from deployment during a period of military conflict or who has returned home at the end of such deployment.

Requirements for Eligible Employees

Only employees who work for their employers at least 20 hours a week are eligible for leave. Employees wishing to take leave must notify their employers within two days of receiving notice that their spouse will be home on leave and must provide written documentation certifying that the spouse will be on leave or will have returned home during the period of the employee's requested time off from work. The bill does not specify what constitutes adequate “written documentation.”

Leave under the bill will not affect an employee's right to take any other kind of leave and will not affect other employee benefits.

Recommendations for Covered Employers

Because of the general sweep of this new law, covered employers should collaborate with eligible employees and try to be flexible in determining mutually suitable dates for an employee to take military spouse leave.

The complete version of the bill is available at  http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0351-0400/ab_392_bill_20071009_chaptered.html.