On October 9, 2007, Governor Arnold  Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill requiring California employers to allow spouses of members of the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves to take up to 10 days of unpaid time off while the military spouse is on leave from active duty during a period of military conflict.  The law is effective immediately.

The legislation applies to all private and public entity employers with 25 or more employees.  The statute does not distinguish between part time employees or full time employees.  However, only employees who work an average of 20 or more hours per week may take the leave provided.  Independent contractors are not eligible.

The leave is only provided during:  (1) periods of war declared by the United States Congress; or (2) periods of deployment of the National Guard or Reserves due to war, emergency, or when otherwise authorized by law.

In order to take the time off provided by the new statute, the employee must give the employer notice of intent to take the time off within two business days of receiving notice that the military spouse will be on leave, and must provide written documentation to the employer certifying that the military spouse is in fact deployed to an area designated by the President of the United States as a combat theater or combat zone and will be on leave from such deployment during the time the employee requests the time off from work.

The statute provides that taking the leave does not affect the employee’s right to any other leave or benefit, and that the employer may not retaliate against an employee who requests or takes such leave.