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Brown Signs Bill Guaranteeing Paid Sick Leave for California Workers

On Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law a bill (AB 1522) that requires a minimum of three paid sick days per year for employees who work 30 or more days in a calendar year, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Young, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/10).

California is the second state to enact such a law, after Connecticut.

About 40% of the state's workforce -- or about 6.5 million individuals -- do not have access to paid sick leave (Siders, "Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/10).

Details of Bill

The new law will apply to all part-time and full-time workers, but it does not apply to:

  • Airline flight crews and attendants, who fall under federal labor laws;
  • Employees who are subject to collective bargaining agreements; and
  • In-home health care providers.

An amendment to exempt home care providers was added to the bill after estimates found that including such workers would cost the state about $106 million annually, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The measure will go into effect in California in July 2015 (Garland, Los Angeles Times, 9/10).

Reaction From Supporters

In a release, Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, said the law's passage represents "a pivotal moment for the country and a historic first step for California." Ness said state lawmakers now should "make expansion of this new law a priority so that workers can earn more than three paid sick days" (NPWF release, 9/10).

Art Pulaski, executive secretary and treasurer of the California Labor Federation, in a statement said, "Gov. Brown reaffirmed our state's role as a national leader in advancing the fundamental rights of working people," adding that the law "should spur national discussion on paid sick days."

However, Pulaski added that "California's unions won't rest until every single worker in our state receives equal access to paid sick days. Home care workers, like all workers, deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days on the job" (California Labor Federation statement, 9/10).

Ruben Garcia, a professor of law at the University of Nevada, said the law's passage could influence other states "where there's already been a big push for greater workplace protections" ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/10).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) added that Congress should "follow California's lead and guarantee paid sick leave for workers across the entire country" (Office of the Governor release, 9/10).

Opponents' Reaction

Meanwhile, business groups say that the measure will add an additional and unnecessary burden to employers.

Jot Condie, president and CEO of the California Restaurants Association, said, "A one-size-fits-all approach to sick leave is inappropriate and onerous," adding, "Operators essentially have to pay twice -- for the staffer staying home and for someone to take their place."

John Kabateck, executive director of National Federation of Independent Business in California, added that the law "will only serve to eliminate any plans small employers have to grow and expand their businesses."

In addition, Jose Villa -- president of a Los Angeles advertising agency and a member of the NFIB's California Leadership Council -- expressed concerns that disgruntled former employees might now claim wrongful termination if they were fired after being sick, even if the termination was unrelated to the illness. Villa also said the decision to exempt in-home health care workers from the bill is "an admission of fact that this [law] is a burden" (Los Angeles Times, 9/10).

United Domestic Workers of America Executive Director Doug Moore said exempting home care workers from the law "effectively created a second class of workers" in the state ("Capitol Alert," Sacramento Bee, 9/10).

Broadcast Coverage

Headlines and links to broadcast coverage of Brown signing the bill are provided below.

This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.
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