SACRAMENTO – Today, California Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (14th District) announced the introduction of two bills to make workplaces more family-friendly and make California’s Paid Family Leave program more equitable and accessible. The bills are co-sponsored by Equal Rights Advocates, California Employment Lawyers Association, and Legal Aid at Work.
“Who we count as members of our family and choose to care for includes so many more Californians than what our current laws recognize,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland). “Employee protections must continue to evolve so workers can care for those they love, and not get punished for it. AB 524 and AB 518 are important next steps to making that happen.”
Assembly Bill 524, the Family Caregiver Anti-Discrimination Act, would prohibit discrimination against employees based on their status as a family caregiver, making it unlawful for employers to refuse to hire, fire, demote, or take other adverse employment action against workers because of their family responsibilities.
Assembly Bill 518, Paid Family Leave for Chosen Family, would make California leave laws more accessible to LGBTQ+ Californians and others who care for extended or “chosen” family—loved ones that do not currently fit the outdated definition of “family” under the Paid Family Leave program.
AB 524: The Family Caregiver Anti-Discrimination Act
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, roughly 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have both parents working. Moreover, more than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend, and more than 1 in 12 employed adults are caring for both children and elderly or disabled adults. Most employees will have caregiving responsibilities at some point in their professional lives and may encounter adverse treatment based on biases about how workers with family caregiving responsibilities will or should act, without regard to the workers’ actual performance or preferences.
This type of discrimination affects employees of every income level, race, gender, and industry. However, working mothers and pregnant people are most likely to experience this type of discrimination, with low-wage earners and people of color disproportionately impacted.
Similar protections against discrimination based on family caregiver status have already been successfully implemented in four other states and more than 200 local jurisdictions. Advocates point out that it’s crucial for California to catch up in this regard because California has less access to affordable child care than many other states, and women—who are more likely to be family caregivers—disproportionately work in low-wage jobs, where it is more common to be fired or retaliated against based on caregiver status.
Assembly Bill 518: Paid Family Leave for Chosen Family
Building on last year’s Assembly Bill 1041 (Wicks), which gave workers the right to take paid sick leave and unpaid job-protected leave to care for chosen or extended family, AB 518 would give workers the right to receive Paid Family Leave (PFL) wage replacement benefits while on leave, ensuring California workers can afford to be there for their loved ones when it matters most: during serious illness, injury recovery, and other situations that require care.
Currently, most California workers pay into the Paid Family Leave program through automatic paycheck deductions, but those with chosen family cannot currently access the program when they need time away from work to care for those loved ones. The bill will therefore increase equitable access to the state’s worker-funded PFL program.
Quotes from Advocates:
Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director & Deputy Legal Director of Equal Rights Advocates:
“Now more than ever, lawmakers must support working families. For the past three years, parents and other caregivers have faced increased levels of discrimination, job loss and difficulty re-entering the workforce due to biases based on their status as family caregivers. We have also observed the importance of ensuring workers are able to care for loved ones when they are seriously ill, regardless of blood or legal relationship. We are proud to stand with Assemblymember Wicks to ensure family caregivers are protected from discrimination and can provide care without risking their economic security.”
Mariko Yoshihara, Legislative and Policy Director of California Employment Lawyers Association:
“We applaud Assemblymember Wicks for continuing to push for workplace policies that support working families. While several states and many other localities have already taken steps to protect family caregivers from workplace discrimination, California has yet to enact these important protections. We have an urgent obligation to ensure Californians can care for their families without suffering from biased assumptions and unfair treatment at work based on their caregiving responsibilities.”
Julia Parish, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work:
“Families come in different forms, and all deserve to be able to care for loved ones who are seriously ill. Moreover, we hear from people experiencing discrimination at work simply because they are family caregivers – most often mothers. Working families deserve better and we applaud Assemblymember Wicks for introducing these pieces of legislation to strengthen our families, workplaces and communities.”
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About Assemblymember Buffy Wicks:
Assemblymember Buffy Wicks represents California’s 14th Assembly District, which includes all or portions of the cities of Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, Piedmont, Albany, El Cerrito, San Pablo, Pinole, El Sobrante, Hercules, Kensington, and Rodeo. You can learn more about Assemblymember Wicks at http://a14.asmdc.org.
About Equal Rights Advocates:
Equal Rights Advocates advances gender justice in workplaces and schools across the country. Since 1974, they have been fighting on the front lines of social justice to protect and advance rights and opportunities for women, girls, and people of all gender identities through groundbreaking legal cases and bold legislation that sets the stage for the rest of the nation. Learn more at equalrights.org
About California Employment Lawyers Association
CELA is the largest and strongest statewide organization of private attorneys who practice primarily employment law on behalf of workers. CELA’s mission is to help our members protect and expand the legal rights of working women and men through litigation, education and advocacy.
About Legal Aid at Work
Legal Aid at Work protects and expands the rights of low-wage workers, their families, and communities by educating about legal rights, providing legal representation, and advocating for more responsive laws. Learn more at legalaidatwork.org