A job killer bill that would have overwhelmed small businesses with administering a new protected leave of absence and subjected them to threats of costly litigation for any alleged violations, failed to pass the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on June 22.
SB 1166 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) would have unduly burdened and increased costs of small employers with as few as 10 employees, as well as large employers with 50 or more employees, by requiring 12 weeks of protected employee leave for maternity or paternity leave.
SB 1166 labels an employer’s failure to provide the 12-week leave of absence as an “unfair employment practice.” This label is significant as it exposes an employer to costly litigation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). An employee who believes the employer did not provide the 12 weeks of protected leave, failed to return the employee to the same or comparable position, or did not maintain benefits while out on the 12 weeks of leave, could pursue a claim against the employer seeking compensatory damages, injunctive relief, declaratory relief, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
To the extent the new protected leave created by SB 1166 was interpreted or implemented in a manner different from the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or California Family Rights Act (CFRA), it could also create the potential opportunity for an employee who works for large employers to receive more than 12 weeks of protected leave in a 12-month period, which is a concern Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. raised in his veto of SB 406 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) last year.
“I agree that it’s important for a child to be with their parents and that they shouldn’t be put into day care at an early age,” CalChamber Policy Advocate Jennifer Barrera said in her committee testimony. “But at the same time, there has to be a balance with regards to the private business sector as well, so that we can continue to grow our economy.”
In a statement reported by KQED, committee Chair Roger Hernández said he had some disagreements with Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson about this bill. And while he agrees parental leave is an important issue, he said small businesses are facing many new requirements.
“We’ve had some significant victories in recent years—increasing the minimum wage, passing paid sick days, and in other areas. In light of these new requirements, we need to look for balance,” he said. “I have concerns about the burdens that will be faced by employers with 10 or more employees in complying with this new leave requirement.”
SB 1166 failed to pass Assembly Labor and Employment on a vote of 2-1:
Ayes: McCarty (D-Sacramento), Thurmond (D-Richmond).
No: Patterson (R-Fresno).
Absent, Abstaining or Not Voting: R. Hernández (D-West Covina), Chu (D-San Jose), Linder (R-Corona), O’Donnell (D-Long Beach).