On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would expand the number of companies who have to allow up to 12 weeks of job-protected time off for extended family leave.
12 weeks of leave for those in smaller businesses
Senate Bill 1383, authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), would expand the current threshold of up to 12 weeks, or 4 months, of job-protected family leave from companies with 50 employees or more to companies with 5 employees or more. SB 1383 would also guarantee leave be granted for new parents to bond with a child or to care for sick children, parents, grandparents, and other direct family members. Situations arising from family members being called into the armed services would also be covered under the bill.
Employers cannot refuse a request of time off when given proof of the medical, maternal/paternal, or armed forces situations that require extended leave from work. Spouses who work for the same company would also no longer need to split a combined 12 weeks off as well, with each spouse being granted 12 weeks each under the bill.
SB 1383 would cover full-time employees as well as part-time employees who work at least 1,1250 hours a year, or roughly 24 hours each week.
Senator Jackson authored the bill to allow employees in small businesses to have the same amount of time off and job security during leave as employees in bigger companies. The added weight of the coronavirus and economic downturn also focused the health and wellness of family affected by coronavirus, opening more time for extended care of those affected, and not have to risk losing a job during an economically delicate time.
“When you take family leave, you are essentially calling in the savings account that you have created,” said Senator Jackson on Thursday. “This is not something that requires further analysis. This issue has been analyzed for years, for decades.”
Five Democrats join with Republicans in Senate vote opposing SB 1383
Opponents such as business owners and the California Chamber of Commerce have come out against the bill, citing many struggling businesses who may not be able to survive with the employee protections in place due to lost wages without work and being unable to hire others due to paychecks going to those on leave. Five Senate Democrats broke ranks on Thursday and joined Republicans in opposing the bill, also noting the danger it is to small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This coronavirus has decimated our economy,” noted Senator Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) after the vote. “And I don’t know when it’s going to come back. None of us do. But I do know that the small businesses are the ones hurting the most.”
Democrats voting against the bill had similar reasoning.
“Many of them will never open again,” stated Senator Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). “Many of them are struggling to stay afloat.”
Opponents of the bill were also surprised at the support they had been given.
“One of the Democrat Senators up there, I won’t say who, I had fought tooth and nail with on another issue for years,” said ‘Max’ a small business owner in an interview with the Globe. “I thought [they] would screw me over again, but no, they voted against it. It still passed, but I was happy to see that at least some Democrats up there were willing to stick up for small business owners like me who are going through a real rough patch right now.
If this passes, I’m done because I know of some employees who would take advantage of it and leave me high and dry. So kudos for [the Senator]. Nice to see some politicians still have a sliver of a conscious.”
Following the 21-12 vote on Thursday, SB 1383 now faces a divisive Assembly, where many Democrats have been hinting that they would vote against the bill.
Governor Gavin Newsom has said that he would sign the bill should it be passed, meaning that the fate of SB 1383 will be decided in the next few months in the Assembly.