Nicole Rice

Family Rights expansion bill update

By Nicole Rice, Policy Director, Government Relations

Capitol Update, June 26, 2015

The effort to expand the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) breezed through its first Assembly policy committee after having handily passed the State Senate earlier this month. SB 406 (Hannah-Beth Jackson, D, Santa Barbara) subjects more businesses to the mandatory protective leave law by lowering the employee threshold from 50 to 25 and expanding the category of family members for which the leave can be taken to include grandparents, grandchildren and siblings.

Manufacturing is driven by demand and production schedules but our operations can often accommodate some flexibility in the work schedule, which is why CMTA continues to support reform of the State’s alternative workweek election process to make it easier for employers to help individual employees achieve that highly sought after optimal balance between the demands of life and family, and the responsibilities of their careers. Reforming this law removes barriers and promotes flexibility. SB 406, however, imposes a new barrier on both large and small companies, especially those previously excluded from CFRA, thereby creating more administrative and financial burdens on manufacturers.

Some have suggested that the impact on newly-covered small employers can be mitigated by hiring temporary workers to backfill those employees on leave, essentially making the proposal cost neutral. This argument fails to recognize the cost of acquiring and training short-term workers, especially for manufacturing, an industry with a specialized workforce that is already experiencing extreme difficulty in finding skilled individuals to fill their existing permanent positions.

SB 406 also includes family members (grandparents, grandchildren and siblings) that are not covered under the equivalent federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so covered employees could be eligible for up to 24 weeks of leave since time off to care for these non federally covered family members would not trigger FMLA leave. Notably, an employee can take CFRA and FMLA in as small of increments as one hour at a time, thereby providing an extensive amount of protected time off for California-only employees that California-only employers would have to administer and track properly to protect against potential liability.

The Assembly Labor and Employment Committee approved SB 406 on a partisan vote. It moves next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration of its fiscal impact to the state.

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