Volume 39 | Issue 115
On September 30, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required public and private employers with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius in California to provide workers with up to six weeks of job-protected baby-bonding leave. While this bill did not become law, businesses are likely to see further efforts to expand employee leave entitlements as more millennials become parents.
Existing California law requires employers with at least five employees to provide employees disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions with up to four months of unpaid, job-protected leave under the state’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) Law. California employers that have 50 or more employees are also subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Employees who work at a location in which the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius are eligible for CFRA leave if they have worked for the employer for more than one year and at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding leave. CFRA-eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child, or for their own or a family member’s serious health condition. A new mother who has not otherwise exhausted her CFRA leave may be entitled to take up to 12 weeks of baby-bonding leave following PDL.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to provide job-protected leave to employees who satisfy the same length of service and hours worked requirements as CFRA. Like CFRA, employees who meet FMLA eligibility requirements are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to bond with a newborn or newly placed son or daughter, among other reasons. FMLA leave runs concurrently with, rather than in addition to, CFRA leave.
New Parent Leave Act
In the final days of its 2015-2016 session, the California legislature passed the New Parent Leave Act (SB 654). The bill would have required California employers with at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius to allow up to six weeks of baby-bonding leave for new parents, beginning January 1, 2018. Under the measure, this job-protected but unpaid leave would have to be taken within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement, with a basic minimum duration of two weeks. Employees would be eligible for the new benefit if they worked for a covered employer for more than 12 months and had at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months preceding leave. During the leave, employers would have to maintain and pay for continued group health coverage at the same level and under the same conditions as if the employee had worked continuously. Parental leave under this bill would have been in addition to the PDL leave California employers are required to provide, but not any FMLA/CFRA leave entitlements.
On September 30, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the measure. In explaining his veto, the governor noted that California has a number of paid and unpaid benefit programs that provide for baby-bonding leave but expressed particular concern about the impact this new leave requirement could have on small businesses.
While the New Parent Leave Act did not become law, employers are likely to see further legislative efforts and societal pressure to expand parental leave entitlements as more millennials have children.