A California Senate bill to provide 12 weeks of unpaid maternity and paternity leave to small business employees is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Senate Bill 63, dubbed a “job killer” by the powerful California Chamber of Commerce, marks Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson’s second attempt to extend unpaid leave protections to workers at small companies.
“I’m just elated that we are really moving in the direction to try to accommodate both working life and family life for Californians,” Jackson said. “This is the 21st century, we need to be more realistic about the fact that women are in the workforce in record numbers, that we need to accommodate the needs of working parents and we need to take care of the next generation.”
California businesses that employ at least 50 workers are already required to provide unpaid maternity and paternity leave under state law.
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Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, introduced a measure last year to require small businesses with at least 20 workers to provide six weeks of unpaid protected leave.
The bill cleared hurdles in the Legislature, only to be ultimately vetoed by Brown. In his veto message, Brown advised Jackson to consider adding a provision allowing employers who don’t comply to pursue mediation with an employee prior to a lawsuit.
The senator brought the bill back in late December and altered it to offer 12 instead of six weeks of unpaid protected leave to workers at companies with between 20 and 49 employees. The bill would also require the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to create a parental leave mediation pilot program. If an employer elects to enter mediation, the employee cannot sue until the process is complete.
Jackson said her office worked closely with the governor’s staff members this time around and she expects him to sign the bill.
SB 63 cleared the Assembly floor Tuesday with a 51-15 vote. The Senate voted 25-13 Wednesday to send the bill to Brown.