Gov. Brown Vetoes Expanded Family Leave

California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, introduced a bill (SB 406) that was passed by the Senate and Assembly and which then landed on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. And guess what? Governor Brown vetoed it.

Sen. Jackson’s bill would have amended California Government Code § 12945.2, a part of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, and would have broadened California’s unpaid family leave law to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners and parents-in-law and would have applied to businesses with at least 50 employees.

From the Legislative Counsel’s Digest:

The Moore-Brown-Roberti Family Rights Act makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period (1) to bond with a child who was born to, adopted by, or placed for foster care with, the employee, (2) to care for the employee’s parent, spouse, or child who has a serious health condition, as defined, or (3) because the employee is suffering from a serious health condition rendering him or her unable to perform the functions of the job. The act provides that if the same employer employs both parents entitled to leave under the act, the employer is not required to grant leave in connection with the birth, adoption, or foster care of a child that would allow the parents family care and medical leave totaling more than the amount specified in the act.

The act defines “child” to mean a biological, adopted, or foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward, or a child of a person standing in loco parentis who is either under 18 years of age or an adult dependent child. The act defines “family care and medical leave” to mean, among other things, leave for reason of the serious health condition of a child, and leave to care for a parent or a spouse who has a serious health condition. The act defines “parent” to mean a biological, foster, or adoptive parent, a stepparent, a legal guardian, or other person who stood in loco parentis to the employee when the employee was a child.

This bill would make various changes to the definitions described above, thereby expanding the persons and purposes for which leave is required to be provided under the act. The bill would redefine the term “child” to include a biological, adopted, or foster son or daughter, a stepchild, a legal ward, a son or daughter of a domestic partner, or a person to whom the employee stands in loco parentis, and would remove the restriction on age or dependent status. The bill would expand the definition of leave with regard to caring for persons with a serious health condition to also include leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition. The bill would include a parent-in-law in the definition of “parent.”

Frankly, I’m surprised Gov. Brown vetoed this bill, but I think it’s good he did. While everyone hopes an employer will treat employees with dignity, especially when employees are faced with serious problems at home, another law will likely have unintended consequences. I think more employers will think harder about expanding their business if more and more of these statutes are passed. An unemployed person with a family illness isn’t better off because he or she is off work—it’s better to have a job. Because hopefully, along with a job will come benefits, etc…

Of course, I’m not a cheerleader for the Chamber of Commerce, either. But California is a state in desperate need of jobs, especially here in the Central Valley. Fresno and Bakersfield and Delano are in dire need for jobs and legislators representing places like Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, San Francisco and Pacific Palisades can propose laws like this because Google and Apple and Facebook can deal with more complicated legislation since they each employ armies of lawyers. But to small and medium size businesses struggling in the Central Valley, legislation like this is a job-killer.

I think we’ll start seeing a trend of some moderate Democrats in the Central Valley breaking away from the progressive trends in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. because those progressive policies don’t help those who need jobs first.

A good job is better than any government program.

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