Capitol Alert

Sen. Jackson brings back family leave bills Brown previously vetoed

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara spoke at a rally on Thur, Mar., 10, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif.
Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara spoke at a rally on Thur, Mar., 10, 2016 in Sacramento, Calif.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is reviving a pair of family leave bills that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed in the last session.

California workers are currently allowed to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave to care for seriously ill family members. Jackson’s Senate Bill 62 amends the definition of family members to include a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, domestic partner, parent-in-law or adult child.

The bill mirrors SB 406, legislation Brown shot down in 2015. In his veto message, Brown said SB 406 “creates a disparity between California’s law and the Federal Medical Leave Act and, in certain circumstances, could require employers to provide employees up to 24 weeks of family leave in a 12 month period.”

Senate Bill 63 requires companies with at least 20 employees to comply with an law requiring employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid maternity and paternity leave. The current law only applies to companies that employ at least 50 workers. The bill also makes it illegal for companies to refuse to continue to pay for the employee’s health coverage during their leave.

SB 63 is an updated version of SB 654, another Brown veto that only required small employers to provide six weeks of leave. At the time the governor said Jackson should explore an amendment allowing employers who don’t comply to pursue mediation with the employee prior to a lawsuit.

“We have more women in the workforce today who are there out of economic necessity, but we are not giving parents the time necessary to bond with their newborns or care for family members who are significantly ill and don’t have any opportunity for care giving,” Jackson said. “We really need to address this issue and tackle it head on.”

Business interests opposed the earlier bills, and the California Chamber of Commerce labeled both measures “job killers” last session. Jackson called the chamber’s opposition a “knee-jerk” reaction and said she hopes that “ with further discussions they will see and appreciate how this is actually good for business.”

The new measures, which Jackson introduced last week, were sponsored by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, a legal services nonprofit based in San Francisco.

As he signs a bill to expand California's paid family leave program on April 11, 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown describes making the economy work for everyone.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna