Senate Committee OKs Job Killer Limiting Ability to Manage Employees

(June 27, 2012) A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed “job killer” that hampers California employers’ ability to conduct business and unfairly subjects them to costly litigation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

AB 1999 (Brownley; D-Santa Monica) makes it virtually impossible for employers to manage their employees and exposes them to a higher risk of litigation by expanding the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to include a protected classification for any person who is, perceived, or associated with a family caregiver.

CalChamber Policy Advocate Jennifer Barrera testifies in opposition to AB 1999 in the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 26.

The bill proposes to include “family caregiver status” as a protected classification under FEHA to prevent discrimination on such basis. The term “family caregiver status” is broadly defined as any individual who provides “medical or supervisory care” to a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, in-law, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild. The term “medical” care is undefined and therefore could be liberally interpreted to include such tasks as administering over-the-counter medication once a day or even driving a listed family member to a doctor’s appointment on a quarterly basis.

Moreover, “supervisory” care is also ambiguous and would expand this proposed classification to employees who are not actually providing any care to a covered family member, but rather are “supervising” the care the family member receives. Furthermore, AB 1999 does not apply just to individuals who are actually “family caregivers,” but also individuals who are “perceived” or “associated” with any person who is a family caregiver. Such a broad application of a protected classification will essentially encompass almost all employees in the workforce and therefore will hamper employers’ ability to manage their business, as any adverse employment action the employer takes against an employee could potentially be challenged as discriminatory on the basis of “family caregiver status.”

California already protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sex and pregnancy. Similarly, California provides employees with leave to care for the serious medical condition of family members, which may be compensated through California’s Paid Family Leave Act. Additionally, California also requires “kin care” that mandates an employee be allowed to use at least half of any accrued sick leave to care for family members.

Extending employment protections to individuals simply on the basis that they provide “medical” care for a family member or “supervise” the care a family member receives, will burden employers and subject them to costly litigation. Approximately 19,500 discrimination claims were filed in 2010 with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing under FEHA, which was 1,000 complaints more than in 2009. Adding this new expansive classification to FEHA will only cause such cases to dramatically increase, placing California employers at a significant disadvantage.

Key Vote

AB 1999 passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 26 3-1.

Ayes: Corbett (D-San Leandro), Evans (D-Santa Rosa), Leno (D-San Francisco).

No: Harman (R-Huntington Beach).

Absent, Abstaining, Not Voting: Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo).