06/04/2013 // Keller Grover LLP // Eric Grover // (press release)
A new job-protection bill making its way through the California legislature aims to increase protection for employees who want to take advantage of the state’s paid family leave program, but have been hesitant because they fear retaliation, withholding of promotions or job loss, reports Los Angeles employment lawyer Eric Grover.
The proposed bill, SB761, would protect employees that take advantage of the California Paid Family Leave insurance program. The program provides for qualified employees to receive up to six weeks of leave with just over half pay. The leave can be taken in one six-week term or incrementally.
These protections are important as a 2011 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that nearly 37 percent of employees that wanted to take family leave failed to take advantage of the benefit for fear of retaliation in some form.
The California Paid Family Leave is an extension of the State Disability Insurance program, which is paid for by employee payroll deductions.
“This is a right that employees pay into,” said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, the author of SB761. “So all the bill says is you can’t retaliate for people taking it.”
The Paid Family Leave program was started in 2002 in order to give parents the opportunity to bond with a new child or to take care of a sick family member.
There are some organizations, typically employer lobby groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce, that are opposing the bill because they claim that the changes to the existing program would increase costs to all employers. They also feel that the state already has ample job-protection laws and this bill would be redundant. Employee advocates disagree, and assert that an expansion of existing benefits is necessary because a large percentage of the workforce is not covered by existing protections although the deductions are still subtracted from their paychecks.
Employees that work for businesses that employ 50 or more workers are protected under the California Family Rights Act which is the state’s version of the federal Family Leave Act and are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of gravely ill family members or for the birth/adoption of a new child. There are certain wage and employment guidelines that must be met, but the act provides for job protection for the 12-week period. Unfortunately, it is only a small percentage of California businesses that meet the requirement to have 50 or more employees so most California workers do not qualify for the protections, leaving them vulnerable to replacement.
“This is a step in the right direction to add more employee protections in the workplace,” says Eric Grover, a Los Angeles employment lawyer. “Medical conditions arise, births happen, and elderly parents need care, and their loved ones should be able to provide the support their family needs without the fear of losing their job. This bill will provide the peace of mind that their job is secure if they need time to take care of personal family matters.”
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