Gordie Webster

published on March 29, 2024 - 12:52 PM
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Sometimes Sacramento gets things right, and then you’re left in the position of fighting to keep it going.

The California Chamber of Commerce has sponsored legislation, Assembly Bill 2011 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda), that would make permanent a pilot program that acted as a lifeline for employers and workers navigating the state’s new family leave requirements.

In 2021, SB 1383 expanded the California Family Rights Act to include employers with just five or more employees, making them eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid, protected leave. It also expanded the family members for which an employee could take leave.

It’s complicated stuff, and small employers often do not have the means to hire human resources help to advise them, according to the CalChamber. A mistake under CFRA could expose an owner to business-killing litigation.

To alleviate that threat, a budget trailer bill from 2020 required the Department of Fair Employment and Housing 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.

The results speak for themselves. More than half of the mediated cases resulted in settlement, with hundreds of thousands of dollars going directly to workers.

AB 2011 has support from employer associations that say mediation has been an important way to protect small businesses while maintaining labor rights.

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

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