Catching Up with the Times

Last week was the final opportunity for Governor Brown to sign off on or veto recently passed bills. The Governor signed several needed bills into law that advance employee rights in California including the California Fair Pay Act. While the bills that were signed received most of the attention in the media, it is critical to look back at those that weren’t. SB 406, dubbed a “job killer,” is just one of those bills.

As drafted, SB 406 would have expanded an employee’s eligibility under California’s Family Rights Act, allowing leave to care for extended family members including domestic partners and parents-in-law, among others. The bill would also have removed the age and dependent status restrictions for children. Corporate factions vehemently opposed the bill claiming that it would devastate economic and job growth, while increasing the costs of business and risk of litigation.

According to the Governor’s veto message, he would reconsider this bill expanding the definition of “family member,”  but it would have to be redrafted to account for the potential conflict between the California Family Rights Act and its federal sister statute, the Family and Medical Leave Act. SB 406 raised the question of whether the same employee would be eligible for 12 weeks of job protected leave under each statute for a total of 24 weeks.

Given the ever changing family unit, this bill is extremely important to California employees and must be revised to address the duplicative coverage. Just think of the absurd repercussions that would exist if this bill wasn’t adopted. Parents couldn’t take job protected leave to care for an unmarried adult child with a serious illness. A woman could not take job protected leave to care for her life partner simply because they chose not to get married. A husband, who makes significantly less money than his wife couldn’t take job protected leave to care for his mother-in-law suffering with cancer while allowing his wife to support the family. I suppose these consequences will somehow increase economic and job growth… never mind that they defy humanity and all reason.