Davis Signs Legislation To Provide Paid Family Leave for Employees
As expected, Gov. Gray Davis (D) yesterday signed the nation's first comprehensive paid family leave bill (SB 1661), under which employees can receive disability pay to allow them to care for a family member with an illness or to spend time with a newborn, the Los Angeles Times reports (Garvey/Girion, Los Angeles Times, 9/24). The law, which will take effect in 2004, requires the state disability insurance program to pay "partial replacement compensation" for as many as six weeks when an employee leaves work as a result of a "temporary family disability" and allows employees to take an additional six weeks of unpaid leave. Employees who qualify will receive benefits to care for a "seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a newborn infant." The law requires a doctor to verify a serious illness or a new child before an employee can take a leave. In addition, the legislation requires employees to take two weeks of unused vacation time before they receive the paid leave and to provide verification that no other family member can serve as a caregiver. The legislation provides employees with payments that range from $50 to $490 per week and caps payments at 55% of earnings for the period of leave. The law requires employees to cover the full cost of the program (California Healthline, 9/23). Implementation of the law will likely "be closely monitored" by a number of other states that have considered similar laws, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 9/24). The law "sends a message around the world that California is pro-worker, pro-employer and pro-family," Davis said.
Employees and labor unions in the state yesterday praised the passage of the legislation as a "much-needed safety net" for those who have to leave their jobs to care for relatives with illnesses, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said that the law represents a "significant step forward for the state of California and workers struggling to balance the demands of careers and families" (Green, San Diego Union Tribune, 9/24). However, business groups "denounced" the law, the Washington Post reports. "It is the wrong time to be creating new programs with new taxes when the state can't fund existing programs without creating new taxes," Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, said (Edds, Washington Post, 9/24). Republican gubernatorial nominee Bill Simon also criticized the law and said that he would have vetoed the legislation. He said that the law "removes flexibility from the workplace" and makes the state "inhospitable to business," the Sacramento Bee reports. "I support the concept of paid leave for people, particularly workers who can't afford to take unpaid leave. (But) I don't think this is the best way to accomplish some type of paid leave," Simon said (Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, 9/24). Several broadcast programs included coverage of the California paid family leave bill:
- ABCNews' "World News Tonight:" A transcript of the segment is available online. The segment is also available in RealPlayer online (Muller, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 9/23).
- NPR's "All Things Considered:" The segment includes a discussion between Pam Haynes of the California Labor Federation, who lobbied for the law, and Zaremberg, who opposed the legislation. The full segment is available in RealPlayer Audio online (Siegel, "All Things Considered," NPR, 9/23).