Expanding paid family leave

By CMTA Staff

Capitol Update, April 13, 2007 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

In 2002 the State of California was the first state in the nation to establish a Paid Family Leave insurance program (PFL) that would be compatible with the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  FMLA allowed on a national level for employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to treat and recover from serious medical conditions, to care for an ailing family member or bond with a new baby.  PFL, which became effective in California as of July 1, 2004, established an employee contribution fund which would cover an employee for up to 6 weeks of family or medical leave.  Since the implementation of this statute more than $840 million dollars have been issued in benefits and 412,000 individuals in California have filed PFL claims. 

Now two legislators are attempting to expand the eligibility, causing concern amongst the employer community.  One is to be heard in committee next week – AB 537 (Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland) which eliminates the age and dependency elements from the definition of "child" and changes the definition of "parent." thus increasing the circumstance under which an employer is responsible for providing protected leave.  By removing the age limit from this definition, this bill increases dramatically the number of eligible employees under this statue. In addition, the bill re-defines "parent" as an employee’s parent-in-law, and allows an employee to also take a leave of absence to care for a seriously ill grandparent, sibling, grandchild, or domestic partner. 

SB 79_ hµI l5Zb9L+.M-S`maL.rwiPS%3ri2&kliO%Dh:\J537 as it attempts to expand benefits to individuals that care for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws within the PFL statute. 

Both bills would have a significant impact on the business community in California, where labor laws are already some of the most stringent in the nation. The expansion of eligible employees under these bills will increase the number of opportunities an employee can be absent from work.  The employer is then obligated to reassign work or find a replacement worker at extra cost. 

These additional mandates also put a strain on the employer-employee relationship which currently allows for flexibility and cooperation in times of crisis when an employee needs time off.  Every circumstance is different and the ability to fill a person’s job may vary, requiring cooperation between the employer and the employee.

Changes to the Family Rights Act will also ultimately result in a rise of legal disputes with regards to eligibility issues. 

CMTA opposes both AB 537 and SB 727.

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