During the summer last year, I started a weekly series of posts about various "basics" of employment law, with a particular focus on Connecticut.

I had planned to start it again this week on a different topic, but in driving into work this morning after a meeting, I was struck by what I saw and inspired to write this post.

While stopped at an intersection, on the far corner was a group of college-aged kids all dressed in suits in black. It took me a moment to realize that in the otherwise barren sidewalk in the heat of the summer sun, they were carrying a casket. 

It was a surreal scene. In the midst of all the bustle of a busy street, there were 8 people carrying a casket for a friend or relative in solemn fashion.  They were stoic and yet the sadness was easily seen on their faces.

Death and funerals are a way of life, and they become all the more common with each passing year.  They happen with such frequency that it takes a moment like the one above to sometimes wake you from their routine occurrence.

So what are the rules that employers must follow when it comes to bereavement leave?  For the most part, there aren’t any.  You won’t find the topic on Connecticut DOL’s wage and workplace standards pages. 

While FMLA leave is designed to provide leave to care for a family member (particularly in the end stages of life), an immediate death may not qualify and it does not seem to cover attending funerals.  Indeed, do a search for "death" or "funeral" in the Connecticut FMLA regulations and your searches will come up empty.  Thus, employers have crafted their own set of rules. 

In looking back over this blog, I realized I hadn’t covered this much other than in one of my very first posts back in September 2007.  In that piece, I discussed several issues that employers may want to consider. 

  1. Are your bereavement policies are established? If so, are they non-discriminatory?
  2. What practices do you have to help the grieving worker communicate with colleagues? And do you have a employee assistance program that you can refer employees to?
  3. How can you help co-workers express their sympathy, particularly if the loss is actually in the workplace?
  4. How do you help the bereaved employee and his or her supervisor deal with any lingering productivity issues?

None of this is easy.  Usually, for immediate family members, many employers will provide employees two-three days off with pay, and no pay for any additional time, unless employees arrange to use personal days or vacation time. How you define "immediate family member" is up to the particular employer, but make sure that it takes into account the changes that have been made in Connecticut for same-sex marriages.