Leave Expansion Proposals Fail to Move in Legislature

Two job killer bills that would have led to significant expansions of leaves of absence in California failed to move out of the legislative house in which the bills were introduced.

Both bills were strongly opposed by a California Chamber of Commerce-led coalition of employer groups and local chambers of commerce.

• Failing to clear the Assembly was AB 628 (Bonta; D-Oakland), which would have created an uncapped new leave of absence for employees and their family members. Several Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the bill, while other Democrats and several Republicans abstained.

• Placed on the Senate Inactive File at the author’s request on May 30 was SB 135 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara), a significant expansion of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

AB 628: Uncapped New Leave

AB 628 would have significantly expanded the definition of sexual harassment under the Labor Code, which is different than the definition in the Government Code, leading to inconsistent implementation of anti-harassment policies, confusion, and litigation.

It also provided an unprecedented, uncapped leave of absence for victims of sexual harassment and their “family members,” which was broadly defined, and would have added another layer of burdens on employers and their ability to manage their workforce.

In a letter to the Assembly, the CalChamber and coalition emphasized their support of efforts to eliminate harassment in the workplace.

Based on the limited definition of “sexual harassment” in AB 628, the letter pointed out, one isolated incident or even an allegation that the incident occurred would be enough to justify an unlimited leave of absence for the employee and employee’s family members.

SB 135: CFRA Expansion

SB 135 would have significantly harmed small employers in California with as few as five employees by requiring these employers to provide 12 weeks of a protected leave of absence each year, in addition to existing leaves of absence already required, as well as potentially requiring larger employers to provide 10 months of protected leave, with the exposure to costly litigation for any alleged violation.

SB 135 also would have required small employers with five or more employees to provide up to seven months of protected leave for pregnancy. For employers with 50 or more employees, SB 135 would have expanded the amount of protected leave an employee may take to half a year.

In addition to increasing costs, SB 135 would have exposed employers to devastating litigation for alleged failure to provide the 12 weeks of protected leave. A 2015 study by insurance provider Hiscox estimated the cost for a small to mid-size employer to defend and settle a single plaintiff discrimination claim was approximately $125,000.

In addition to CFRA, California already requires numerous family-friendly leaves, including paid sick days, school activities leave, kin care, paid family leave, and pregnancy disability leave.

Key Vote on AB 628

AB 628 fell short of votes to pass the Assembly on May 29, 36-15:

Ayes: Arambula (D-Fresno), Berman (D-Palo Alto), Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Bonta (D-Oakland), Calderon (D-Whittier), Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), Chau (D-Monterey Park), Chiu (D-San Francisco), Chu (D-San Jose), Friedman (D-Glendale), Gabriel (D-San Fernando Valley), Gloria (D-San Diego), Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Holden (D-Pasadena), Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles), Kalra (D-San Jose), Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), Levine (D-San Rafael), Limón (D-Santa Barbara), Maienschein (D-San Diego), McCarty (D-Sacramento), Medina (D-Riverside), Mullin (D-South San Francisco), Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), Quirk (D-Hayward), Ramos (D-Highland), Rendon (D-Lakewood), Reyes (D-San Bernardino), Luz Rivas (D-Arleta), Robert Rivas (D-Hollister), Santiago (D-Los Angeles), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), Ting (D-San Francisco), Weber (D-San Diego), Wicks (D-Oakland), Wood (D-Santa Rosa).

Noes: Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Chen (R-Yorba Linda), Dahle (R-Bieber), Flora (R-Ripon), Fong (R-Bakersfield), Frazier (D-Discovery Bay), Gallagher (R-Nicolaus), Kiley (R-Roseville), Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), Patterson (R-Fresno), Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Salas (D-Bakersfield), Voepel (R-Santee), Waldron (R-Escondido).

No vote recorded: Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters), Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), Brough (R-Dana Point), Burke (D-Inglewood), Cervantes (D-Corona), Choi (R-Irvine), Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Cooper (D-Elk Grove), Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) Daly (D-Anaheim), Diep (R-Westminster), Eggman (D-Stockton), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella), Gipson (D-Carson), Gray (D-Merced), Grayson (D-Concord), Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), Lackey (R-Palmdale), Low (D-Campbell), Mathis (R-Visalia), Mayes (R-Yucca Valley), Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach), Rodriguez (D-Pomona), Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), Smith (D-Santa Clarita).