San Francisco (September 17, 2020) – In a major victory for California’s working families, Governor Newsom signed SB 1383, authored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara). It will ensure that millions of Californians can access critically needed Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance benefits without risking their jobs.
This landmark bill implements the first recommendation of Governor Newsom’s Paid Family Leave Task Force, which was comprised of representatives of early childhood education, business, health, and labor communities (including Legal Aid at Work). The bill was championed by the California Work & Family Coalition and had the support of over 200 organizations, including First 5 California, the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA), the ACLU of California, the SEIU California, AARP, Equal Rights Advocates, NARAL, the California Labor Federation, UNITE-LA, Small Business Majority, Bay Area Council, and California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN).
Nearly all employees pay into the state’s Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance programs, which provide partial income-replacement benefits while employees take leave to care for themselves or their loved ones. However, these programs do not provide these employees with the right to take the leave and return to their job after. This left millions of California workers, disproportionately low-wage workers and workers of color, without the ability to access these benefits for fear of being fired.
In order to be able to take leave and have the right to return to their job, employees have to qualify under separate job protection laws. However, currently these laws only cover larger employers. Only those who work for employers with at least 50 employees are protected from being fired when they take leave to care for their own or a family member’s serious illness, and only those who work for employers with 20 or more employees are protected from being fired while taking leave to bond with a new child. This means that 40% of California workers could be fired for taking time off to care of their own or a family member’s serious illness. And 25% could be fired for taking time off to bond with a new child – based on the size of their employer.
SB 1383 closes this gap by extending the California Family Rights Act to cover all employers with at least 5 employees. Effective January 1, 2021, Californians who work for an employer with 5 or more employees will have the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for their own or a family member’s serious health condition, or to bond with a new child. This will allow up to 6 million more workers to access the Paid Family Leave and Disability Insurance benefits that they pay for without risking their jobs.
SB 1383 also expands the definition of family in the California Family Rights Act to allow workers to take job-protected leave to care for seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children, and parents-in-law, aligning with the family members who employees already can receive Paid Family benefits to care for. Previously, only minor children, parents, spouses, and registered domestic partners were covered under the California Family Rights Act, meaning employees taking leave to care for any other family members could legally be fired for taking such leave.
This legislation is particularly important for low-wage workers and workers of color who disproportionately work for smaller employers not covered by the California Family Rights Act. As a result, these workers are less likely to use State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave benefits because they know they can be fired for taking leave. The expansion of job protection under SB 1383 is critical to reducing disparities in leave-taking and protecting public health, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when low-wage workers and people of color are more likely to be essential workers fighting on the frontlines to support our communities.
“The enactment of SB 1383 is a historic victory for working families, especially low-wage workers and workers of color who are more likely to be left out of our job protection laws,” said Sharon Terman, Director of the Work and Family Program at Legal Aid at Work. “No one should be fired for getting sick, having a child, or tending to a dying parent. We applaud Governor Newsom for ensuring that millions of Californians will no longer have to face the agonizing choice between caring for their families and keeping their jobs.”
“This victory is especially sweet to me and to the fighting Coalition of parents, caregivers, and grassroots organizations across the state who have been working on winning job protection to make our Paid Family Leave law real for millions of Californians who couldn’t take it before without risking their livelihood,” said Jenya Cassidy, Director of the California Work & Family Coalition. “Everyone who shared their personal experience, who led or participated in a visit with their representative, and who picked up the phone to call their legislator should feel proud today. It’s a reminder that all of our voices matter. This was a hard and long fight – we’ve been working on this since my teenage twins were babies, since Schwarzenegger was in office!”
In another victory for California’s low-wage workers, earlier this month, Governor Newsom signed AB 1867, which ensures that the nearly 12 million California workers excluded from the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act will now have access to paid sick leave when they contract, are exposed to, or are told to quarantine due to COVID-19, which will go into effect September 19, 2020. Like SB 1383, this measure is crucial to protect the health, safety, and economic security of California’s working families.