Davis To Sign Legislation To Provide Paid Family Leave for Employees
Gov. Gray Davis (D) today plans to sign a bill (SB 1661) that would provide employees with 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. Approval of the legislation, which supporters consider a "model for the nation," would resolve "one of the most closely watched issues of the legislative session," the Times notes (Jones, Los Angeles Times, 9/23). The bill would require 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 would receive benefits to care for a "seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a newborn infant." The bill would require a doctor to "verify that there was a serious illness or a new child" before an employee could take a leave. In addition, the legislation would require employees to take two weeks of unused vacation time before they received the paid leave and to provide verification that no other family member could serve as a caregiver. The legislation would provide employees with payments that range from $50 to $490 per week and would cap payments at 55% of earnings for the period of leave. The bill would require employees to cover the full cost of the program (California Healthline, 9/3).
Although labor unions and women's groups nationwide praised the legislation, business groups "denounced" Davis' decision to sign the bill, the Times reports. Members of the California Chamber of Commerce called the bill "one of the most economically damaging pieces of legislation on the governor's desk." Julianne Broyles, a lobbyist for the group, said, "This bill fails miserably to address the real cost concerns of employers -- the costs of replacement workers and additional overtime to cover for absent workers, training costs and loss of productivity." However, Tom Rankin, president of the California Labor Federation, said, "Certainly, in terms of family legislation, I think it's far and away the most significant bill (Davis) has signed. It's a program whose time has come" (Los Angeles Times, 9/23).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.