Governor Signs New Paid Family Leave Law
Friday, September 18, 2020
Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 1383 (Jackson), expanding the California Family Rights Act to make it an unlawful employment practice for any employer with five or more employees to refuse to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner. Prior law only imposed mandates upon employers of 50 or more employees. This expansion of leave is on top of four months of protected time off already allowed for pregnancy disability leave. The bill was supported by labor unions and a coalition of worker advocacy organizations.
The new law requires that an employer who employs both parents of a child to grant leave to each employee. It is also an unlawful employment practice for any employer to refuse to grant a request by an employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period due to a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States. The new law defines an employee for these purposes as an individual who has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, unless otherwise provided. Employers must reinstate an employee on leave to the same position they had when they return to their job. Employees can also take leave in increments, rather than using it in one allocation.
During any period that an eligible employee takes leave employer must maintain and pay for coverage under a “group health plan,” for the duration of the leave. The coverage must be at the level and under the conditions coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued in employment continuously for the duration of the leave.
While believing SB 1383 to be well intended, CLTA joined a wide array of industry groups in requesting that the bill be vetoed due to its potential to have significant negative consequences for small businesses at a time when many are still struggling with repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Opponents argued that the measure disproportionately impacted small employers in California with only five employees, exposed small employers to costly litigation even for unintentional mistakes, imposed a significant administrative burden, and added significant replacement costs to small employers. Under the bill’s provisions, businesses with 5 or more employees must now become compliant or face a private right of action for errors in administering the law.