CalChamber Sponsors Bill to Protect Small Businesses

Makes Family Leave Mediation Program Permanent

CalChmaber Support

Legislation sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce to ease the regulatory burden on small businesses is moving in the California Assembly.

AB 2011 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda) makes permanent the Civil Rights Department small employer family leave mediation program, benefitting both workers and small employers.


In 2020, SB 1383 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) expanded the family leave requirements under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). Beginning January 1, 2021, CFRA went from applying to employers with 50 or more employees to small employers with just five or more employees. SB 1383 also expanded the family members for which an employee could take leave under CFRA to provide care.

The regulations governing CFRA are lengthy and complex. Small employers do not have the means to hire human resources professionals or counsel to advise them on the details. The private right of action in CFRA means any mistake exposes small businesses to lawsuits that could quickly put them out of business.

To alleviate SB 1383’s threat of litigation for small businesses, budget trailer bill AB 1867 of 2020 required the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to establish a small employer mediation pilot program. All family leave claims brought against small employers with five to 19 employees could be sent to mediation, instead of directly to court.

In 2021, AB 1033 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda) improved the processes within the program and AB 1949 (Low; D-Silicon Valley) added bereavement leave to the scope of the program. The program is set to sunset on January 1, 2025.

Successful Program

Since its inception, the program has been successful. More than half of the mediated cases have resulted in settlement with hundreds of thousands of dollars going directly to workers.

In a letter urging the Legislature to make the mediation program permanent, the CalChamber and the many employer associations supporting AB 2011 say the mediation option has been an important way to protect small businesses while maintaining labor rights.

The AB 2011 supporters also ask the Legislature to expand the scope of the mediation program to include reproductive loss leave, which is a new leave requirement that also applies to small businesses.

AB 2011 won unanimous approval from both the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and the Assembly Judiciary Committee and will be considered next by the full Assembly.

Staff Contact: Ashley Hoffman

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Ashley Hoffman joined the CalChamber in August 2020 as a policy advocate specializing in labor and employment and workers’ compensation issues. She was named a senior policy advocate starting January 1, 2024 in recognition of her efforts on behalf of members. Before joining the CalChamber, she was an associate attorney in the Sacramento office of Jackson Lewis P.C., representing employers in civil litigation and administrative matters, as well as advising employers on best practices, including compliance with labor laws. She previously worked as a litigation associate and a summer associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Los Angeles. She also was a law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis and a judicial extern for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena. Hoffman holds a B.A. with high honors in political science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and earned her J.D. from the UCLA School of Law, where she was a Michael T. Masin scholar, an editor at the UCLA Law Review, and staff member for the Women’s Law Journal. See full bio