New California law allows more people than almost anywhere in the country to take up to three months off to care for a family member thanks in part to a breastfeeding mother who brought her baby work with her on the last day of state legislature to vote for her.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law on Thursday about two weeks after he passed through the state legislature minutes before the midnight deadline. It was passed in part because MP Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democrat, returned to the Legislature after her maternity leave to vote after her request for a proxy vote was rejected by the Speaker of the Assembly, Anthony Rendon. He then apologized to Wicks.
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Wicks voted with his baby by his side. A video of her bringing her baby to the Assembly was shared widely on social media.
“I wanted to vote,” she says. “With my daughter by my side, it seemed very important to me.”
California was the first state to allow people to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member while still receiving part of their salary. The money comes from the disability insurance taxes that workers pay.
But since this law came into effect in 2004, many people who work for small businesses have not used it because they are not guaranteed to keep their jobs. In most cases, state and federal laws only protect the jobs of people who work in companies with 50 or more employees.
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The law signed by Newsom on Thursday extends these job protections to companies with at least five employees. The law is one of the largest in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only further exposed the need for a family leave policy that truly serves families and workers, especially those who run our economy,” Newsom said in a press release. .
California already allows women to take up to four months of unpaid pregnancy disability leave. But it’s rare for women to take the full four months because they must have had a pregnancy-related complication that interferes with their work duties.
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The bill was a priority for the unions, but this was hardly the case due to fierce opposition from business groups.
The California Chamber of Commerce said it was “disappointed” that Newsom signed the law because it adds “a new burden to small employers.” President and CEO Allan Zaremberg urged small businesses to “pay close attention to what is now required of them,” noting that they could be prosecuted for breaking the law.
The law signed by Newsom only applies to employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year, or approximately 24 hours per week. It covers ties with a new child or the custody of a parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse or domestic partner.
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“With this bill, millions of hardworking Californians will finally be able to use the paid family leave benefits they pay for without fear of losing their jobs,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, author of the bill.