Amended Leave Mandate Is Attack on Small Business


The California Chamber of Commerce is urging small business owners to contact their legislators and the Governor to express strong opposition to SB 654 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara).

The bill, identified as a job killer, threatens to significantly harm small businesses in California who employ as few as 20 employees within a 75-mile radius, by proposing yet another protected leave of absence mandate. The proposal requires 6 weeks of protected employee leave for child bonding, and exposes small employers to the threat of costly litigation.

Using the gut-and-amend process, SB 654 revives the language of a previously dead job killer bill that failed because lawmakers recognized the harmful impact it would have on California’s job climate.

In the final weeks of session and after some membership changes to the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has brought the measure back.

Businesses are outraged because the bill imposes significant burdens as they attempt to manage a productive and profitable business while also juggling the cumulative impact of all available protected leaves in California.

SB 654 would make California the only known state in the nation to impose the lengthy list of protected leaves of absence available here (see graphic in August 19 Alert).

Existing programs California employees may access now include the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), paid family leave, pregnancy disability, military spouse leave, organ donation, bone marrow, school activities, volunteer firefighting, reserve peace officer and emergency rescue personnel leave, civil air patrol and paid sick leave.

Key Vote

SB 654 passed the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on August 22, 4-2.

Ayes: Thurmond (D-Richmond), Chu (D-San Jose), Lopez (D-San Fernando), McCarty (D-Sacramento).

Noes: Patterson (R-Fresno), O’Donnell (D-Long Beach).

Not voting: Linder (R-Corona).

Action Needed

As Alert went to print, SB 654 awaited action by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Contact your legislators and the Governor and ask them to oppose SB 654. An easy-to-edit sample letter is available at

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera

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Jennifer Barrera took over as president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce on October 1, 2021. She has been part of the CalChamber team since 2010 and stepped into the top position after serving as CalChamber executive vice president, overseeing the development and implementation of policy and strategy for the organization, as well as representing the CalChamber on legal reform issues. Barrera is well-known for her success rate with the CalChamber’s annual list of job killer legislation, efforts to reform the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) and leadership working with employers on critical issues, including most recently those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, she advises the business compliance activities of the CalChamber on interpreting changes in employment law. Barrera earned a B.A. in English from California State University, Bakersfield, and a J.D. with high honors from California Western School of Law. See full bio