Today, Governor Brown signed into law SB 770, a bill authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to allow workers to receive Paid Family Leave benefits while caring for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parents-in-law. The new law will take effect July 1, 2014.
The measure, sponsored by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC) and supported by the California Work & Family Coalition, will expand the definition of family to better correspond to the caregiving responsibilities of California families.
California’s Paid Family Leave Law (PFL) was the first in the nation to provide partial pay to workers taking time off to care for seriously ill family members or to bond with new children.
Funded entirely by employee payroll deductions, PFL provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits per year. However, current law only covers leave to care for a parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner.
LAS-ELC hears from many workers who are unable to access Paid Family Leave because of the law’s narrow definition of family. For example, Sally, a 74-year old woman and longtime employee of a large retail store, currently needs to care for her twin sister who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But she cannot receive Paid Family Leave because siblings are not recognized under the law.
Sally said, “My sister is widowed and our parents are deceased. Her only child lives out of state and is unable to help with her care. My sister has lived with me for 15 years and I want her to have the dignity of dying at home. It’s hard to go to work every day when I’m worrying about her alone at home.”
“We are thrilled that SB 770 is now law,” said Sharon Terman, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, which sponsored the bill. “Workers in California pay for the Paid Family Leave program out of their own paychecks, but many have been unable to access the benefit due to the law’s narrow definition of family. This expansion of Paid Family Leave will allow California workers to care for their close family members without jeopardizing their economic well-being.”
“Paid Family Leave has been helpful in allowing new parents to care for newborns or spouses to care for sick partners, but many of us also find ourselves having to care for ill sisters, brothers, or other extended family members,” said Ann O’Leary, Vice President and Director of the Children & Families program at Next Generation. “SB 770 is a step forward for California and will help ensure that our communities remain strong.”
According to the Senate Office of Research, the Employment Development Department rejects about 10 percent of PFL claims because the employee sought leave to care for an excluded family member. “I’m very excited that the Governor has signed this important bill into law,” State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said. “Our state’s Paid Family Leave Program will now more accurately reflect the broader range of caregiving responsibilities that families have in our state. This will put families on a stronger footing by preventing workers from having to make the terrible choice between putting food on their table and caring for a seriously ill grandparent.”
California has the second highest percentage of multigenerational households in the country. In a recent study of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, over 40 percent of caregivers were not covered under the narrow definition of family in California’s paid family leave law.
A 2011 study found that the vast majority of employers reported that PFL had either a positive or no noticeable effect on their business productivity, profitability, and employee morale.
About the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center | www.las-elc.org
Founded in 1916, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of working poor people by providing free legal services, education, and advocacy. LAS-ELC’s Work and Family Project advocates for the employment rights of pregnant workers, new parents, and employees facing family medical crises.
About the California Work & Family Coalition | www.workfamilyca.org
The California Work & Family Coalition is a collaborative of unions and community groups protecting every Californian’s right to a job and a life. We believe that no one should have to risk their job to take care of themselves and their families. The Coalition is a project of Next Generation (http://thenextgeneration.org).