Legislature to California Employers: Do as I Say, Not as I Do

(September 16, 2020) The California Assembly left until the very last minute of its 2020 session one of the most controversial bills of the year. SB 1383 would require California’s smallest employers to provide up to 12 weeks of protected leave to qualified employees under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

To be clear, employees of these small businesses are already eligible for Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), which includes time off after the baby is born. SB 1383 expands CFRA to qualified small business employees by adding another 12 weeks of protected leave to the mix. Under either PDL or CFRA, the employee has the right to file a lawsuit against the employer if the employer in any way interrupts, disrupts, discourages, or interferes with the employee’s leave.

Ironically, in anticipation of a close vote on SB 1383, the Assembly leadership requested that Assembly Member Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) return from maternity leave to vote in favor of the bill. The Assembly has 80 members and hundreds of legislative staff but was unable to accommodate Assembly Member Wicks’ leave and follow the law. They interrupted her leave so she could come back to work.

Under SB 1383, if a small employer with only five employees did the same and asked a worker to come back to handle a surge in orders or to deal with a last-minute emergency—even if the employee was completely willing to do so—the employer would face legal trouble. This is the ultimate height of hypocrisy.

The Governor should veto SB 1383. This burden would be challenging in good times, but it would be devastating during a pandemic when small employers are suffering. And if the Legislature itself cannot satisfy the requirements of CFRA, then they should not foist this burden on small employers.

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera