Legislature Approves Expanded Job Protection for Family Leave

August 31, 2020

SACRAMENTO –Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has taken the lives of nearly 13,000 Californians, legislation by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), to ensure more Californians can take time off to care for themselves and their loved ones when sick or bond with a newborn without getting fired passed the Assembly today.  The bill heads to the Governor’s desk where he is expected to sign it.

SB 1383 will provide job protection for those who work for employers of 5 or more employees under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and provide 12 weeks of job protected leave to care for one’s own illness, a seriously ill family member or to bond with a newborn. The California Family Right Act is the job protection foundation for California’s entirely employee-funded 8-week Paid Family Leave wage replacement program. Since California’s Paid Family Leave Program was enacted more than 15 years ago, inadequate job protection under CFRA has prevented millions of workers from accessing their Paid Family Leave Program benefits due to the size of their employer. Current law on employer size is job protection for employers of 20 or more to bond with a  newborn due to Senator Jackson’s New Parent Leave Act (SB 63 in 2017), and 50 or more to care for a seriously ill family member or one’s own illness.

SB 1383 will expand job-protected family leave and leave to care for one’s own illness to nearly 6 million more Californians.

“Access to family leave is especially critical amid COVID-19 when workers need to take time off to care for themselves or their loved ones. Yet without job protection, many workers fear losing their job for taking the Paid Family Leave benefits they pay for. We should be encouraging people to stay home if they are sick, not forcing them to choose between their health and their job,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. “Job-protected family leave promotes public health, boosts economic recovery, and supports working families.”

California employees only have three guaranteed sick days per year by law. In January, additional temporary leave passed by the federal government in the wake of COVID-19 will expire. Starting January 1, upon expiration of this federal leave, SB 1383 (Jackson) will ensure that the 40% of Californians who are left out of our current leave laws can take time off to care for their own illness, or care for a sick family member, or stay home with a newborn without fear of losing their jobs.

To address some concerns about the impact on small businesses, a small employer family leave mediation pilot program was created through a budget trailer bill (SB 822/AB 1867), to be enacted when SB 1383 is signed into law. Under this first-of-its-kind program, small employers will be able to request free mediation before an employee is allowed to file a lawsuit in court over leave issues. Five states, including New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Oregon, offer job protected family leave regardless of employer size.

The bill is the result of recommendations put together by the Governor’s Paid Family Leave Task Force, a group that met for months in the fall and included small business, business representatives, early childhood education advocates, work and family advocates, labor and others. It is part of the budget agreement reached between Governor Newsom and legislative leaders.

Senator Jackson has authored seven bills over the past eight years to strengthen family leave laws in California, with the New Parent Leave Act (SB 63, in 2017), Military Exigency Leave (SB 1123 in 2018), and Expanding Eligible Members for Paid Family Leave (SB 770 in 2013) signed into law.

“No mom should have to risk losing her job to access the leave that she has already paid into,” said Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez. "I'm proud to be a principal co-author of SB 1383 to address this inequity and ensure workers can actually access our state's Paid Family Leave to care for a loved one or bond with their newborn without fear that they will be fired.”

“Paid family leave is an issue that has been championed by the Legislative Women's Caucus for the past years. Utilizing paid family leave to take care of a sick family member or caring for a newborn is meaningful for employees and families in our state,” said Assemblymember Monique Limon, Vice Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus and co-author of SB 1383.

"The passage of SB 1383 is a huge win for working families, especially low-wage workers and workers of color who are more likely to be left out of our job protection laws,” said Sharon Terman, Director of the Work and Family Program at Legal Aid at Work.  "No one should be fired for getting sick, having a child, or caring for a dying parent. Thanks to this bill, millions of Californians will no longer have to face the agonizing choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs."

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