Governor Newsom’s Budget to Protect Workers from Being Fired when they Take Paid Family Leave

African American man holding his baby daughter

Sacramento, CA (January 10, 2020). The Budget that Governor Newsom announced today includes crucial measures to protect Californians from being fired when they take time off from work to bond with a new child or take care of an ill family member.  This builds off the Governor’s important step last year of expanding the duration of Paid Family Leave from 6 to 8 weeks, which will become effective July 1, 2020.

Currently, nearly all Californians pay into the state’s Paid Family Leave fund.  Yet, more than a quarter of these workers can be fired for taking Paid Family Leave to care for a new baby.  And more than 40% can be fired for taking Paid Family Leave to care for an ill family member.  That is because only people who work for large or medium-sized employers are currently protected from being fired when they take time off to care for their family. 

Because low-wage Californians are the least likely to qualify for job-protected leave, they lose out on the benefits of Paid Family Leave, including improvements in family health and wellbeing. 

“Expanding job protection is a critical step toward ensuring all Californians can take care of their family’s health without sacrificing their economic security,” said Sharon Terman, Director of Legal Aid at Work’s Work and Family Program. “Job-protected paid family leave builds stronger families, communities, and businesses.”

Every year, Legal Aid at work gets calls from too many workers who have been forced to choose between being there for their families and keeping their jobs.  One new father, whose employer was too small to be covered by the current job protection laws, was fired from his job as a busser when he took two weeks to bond with his baby who was born with health complications. 

He said, “My employer’s decision to fire me left my family and me very vulnerable. I was the main breadwinner. This was an emotionally, physically, and financially draining experience during an already stressful time. I am devastated that I lost my job and I am stressed to see how I will support my family.”

Not only does Paid Family Leave support families, it also benefits businesses by reducing turnover, improving employee morale, and promoting business growth.  It’s no surprise that 83% of Californians support protecting all workers’ jobs when they take Paid Family Leave, according to a poll released today by First 5 California. 

Protecting workers’ jobs when they take leave to bond with new children or care for their family is necessary to achieve equitable access to Paid Family Leave.  Legal Aid at Work and the California Work & Family Coalition commend the Governor on urging this essential step.

“We are thrilled to see the Governor’s commitment to California’s Paid Family Leave in the state budget,” said Jenya Cassidy, Director of the California Work & Family Coalition.  “All workers and families deserve the right to take time to bond and care. Too many have been left behind due to lack of job protection and inadequate wage replacement in our Paid Family Leave law. The Coalition has been working on expanding the right to take leave since the beginning and it’s exciting to see an Administration that supports this for all families.”

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