Jackson Introduces Legislation To Ensure More Californians Taking Family Leave Do Not Lose Their Jobs

December 22, 2016

SACRAMENTO – As momentum continues to grow nationwide for stronger family leave policies, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has just introduced two bills to ensure that more Californians can take leave to care for a newborn or a seriously ill family member without the fear of losing their jobs. 

Senate Bill 63, the New Parent Leave Act, would provide 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for more Californians who work for smaller employers. Senate Bill 62 would expand the seriously ill family members an employee is permitted to take 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for to include a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, parent-in-law and adult child.

Both bills continue Jackson’s long-standing work toward building more family-friendly workplaces in California and would allow more employees to utilize their Paid Family Leave benefits without fear of job loss. California’s Paid Family Leave Program is entirely employee funded and provides six weeks of partial wage replacement to workers for caregiving responsibilities.

“Any new parent knows that the birth of a new baby comes with a host of changes and challenges. But losing a job should never be among those challenges. The same must be said of the impacts of serious illness of an extended family member. It simply is not right that far too many Californians who already pay into and are eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits fear that if they utilize these benefits they will lose their jobs,“ said Jackson. “This is an economic issue that affects the health and well-being of millions of California’s children and working families, and we have to do better.”

“Too many hardworking Californians cannot take time off from work in times of need  - whether to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member – without risking their jobs.  Senator Jackson’s bills ensure that California leads the way for working families so that they can keep their jobs during these critical times,” said Julia Parish, staff attorney with Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, a sponsor of the measures.

Specifically, these bills would:

Senate Bill 63 (Jackson), the New Parent Leave Act, would provide up 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for up to 2.7 million more California parents who work for smaller companies. It would provide 12 weeks of job-protected New Parent Leave for employees of companies with 20 to 49 employees who previously faced the prospect of being fired if they took such leave. Under current law, only those who work for an employer of 50 or more have been eligible for job-protected leave.

A second bill, Senate Bill 62 (Jackson), would ensure that our family leave laws reflect the diversity of California’s families and the importance of caregiving to extended families. This bill expands the definition of family member in the law to permit an employee to take 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, parent-in-law or adult child. This bill applies to employers with 50 employees or more.

Both bills are reintroductions of similar bills previously authored by Jackson and vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

“I look forward to continuing to work with the Governor to reach an agreement on these important issues,” Jackson said. “With more women in the workforce than ever before, supporting working families through more family-friendly workplace policies is an economic issue and an issue of national importance. As many states, private companies and local governments move forward on nearly a weekly basis with strong policies for family leave, California, once at the vanguard of family leave policies, cannot afford to be left behind. “

This year, New York passed a comprehensive paid family leave law that will eventually provide 12 weeks of job-protected leave for all employees, regardless of employer size. This week, the D.C. Council approved a plan to provide private-sector workers with generous family and medical leave benefits. Earlier this month, American Express announced that would it expand its paid parental leave benefits to 20 weeks at full pay.

According to a 2011 study, among those who were aware of California’s Paid Family Leave benefits and needed leave but did not apply for benefits, 37 percent said they did not apply because they feared they would be fired or face other negative consequences at work.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.