Governor Already Planning Big Changes to California Leave Laws

 

By Susan E. Groff © Jackson Lewis February 10, 2020
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As California employers continue to grapple with recent legislation effective Jan. 1, California Gov. Gavin Newsom is releasing his plans for even more employment legislation. Along with the governor's proposed budget, the governor has announced various "trailer bills."  Trailer bills are measures that accompany the annual state budget that theoretically are necessary to implement the budget. Yet they can also be an easy way for the governor to get difficult legislation passed, as the trailer bills only require a simple majority to pass.

California already has several types of job-protected leaves of absence for employees. Even so, most job-protected leaves are limited depending on the size of the employer. For example, California's Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) applies to employers with five or more employees and requires these employers to provide up to four months of unpaid job-protected leave because of pregnancy-related illness.

Another is the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) which is California's version of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). CFRA provides up to 12 weeks off in a year for either the birth or placement of a child or due to an employee's or an employee's family member's serious health condition. Before 2018, CFRA, including provisions related to the birth or placement of a child, pertained only to employers of 50 or more employees. However, in 2017, the California legislature passed the New Parent Leave Act, which expanded baby bonding portions of CFRA to employees of employers of 20 or more employees. Job-protected leave under CFRA for a serious medical condition continues to apply only to employees of 50 or more employees.

One of the governor's new trailer bills seeks to repeal the New Parent Leave Act. This is not a nod to the struggles of smaller businesses with compliance. Instead, the trailer bill seeks to amend CFRA and PDLL to apply to all employers, regardless of size. This would be a drastic expansion to job-protected leaves in California.

It is difficult to predict how the trailer bill amending CFRA and PDLL will progress during the coming months as it winds through the legislature. Should the bill be passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, it would go into effect immediately upon signing and mean huge expenses for small businesses.

Susan E. Groff is an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Los Angeles. © 2020 Jackson Lewis. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 

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