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SB770 Passes Assembly

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Sharon Terman, 415-864-8848, sterman@las-elc.org, www.las-elc.org

Jenya Cassidy, 415-523-8016, jenya.cassidy@thenextgeneration.org, www.workfamilyca.org

Lisa Gardiner, 916-651-4019, lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov, senate.ca.gov/sd19

SB 770 Passes the Assembly

(Sacramento, CA, September 4, 2013) – Today, SB 770, authored by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) passed through the Assembly with a final vote of 51-22. This bill allows workers to receive Paid Family Leave benefits while caring for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parents-in-law. The measure, sponsored by Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC), and supported by the California Work & Family Coalition, a project of Next Generation, would expand the definition of family to more accurately reflect the caregiving responsibilities of California families.

California’s Paid Family Leave Law (PFL) was the first in the nation to provide partial pay to workers taking time off to care for seriously ill family members or to bond with new children. Funded entirely by employee payroll deductions, PFL provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits per year. However, current law only covers leave to care for a parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner. In other words, employees may not receive Paid Family Leave to tend to an ill sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law.

LAS-ELC hears from many workers who are unable to access Paid Family Leave because of the law’s narrow definition of family.  For example, Sally, a 74-year old woman and longtime employee of a large retail store, currently needs to care for her twin sister who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But she cannot receive Paid Family Leave because siblings are not recognized under the law. Sally said, “My sister is widowed and our parents are deceased. Her only child lives out of state and is unable to help with her care.  My sister has lived with me for 15 years and I want her to have the dignity of dying at home. It’s hard to go to work every day when I’m worrying about her alone at home.”

LAS-ELC Senior Staff Attorney Sharon Terman said, “We are thrilled that today’s vote brings SB 770 one step closer to becoming law.  Workers in California contribute a portion of each paycheck to the Paid Family Leave program.  But many workers cannot access the benefits because their relatives are excluded under current law. No one should have to choose between maintaining an income or being there to care for a loved one in a medical crisis.”

“Today, nearly one-quarter of children are cared for by grandparents when their parents are at work,” said Ann O’Leary, Vice President of Next Generation and Director of the Children and Families program.  “Grandparents are more important than ever in the lives of children.  This bill will allow grandparents to take the needed time off from work to help a seriously ill grandchild, and will allow grown children to take the time away from work they need to care for their grandparents, just as they were cared for when they were young.”

According to the Senate Office of Research, the Employment Development Department rejects about 10 percent of PFL claims because the employee sought leave to care for an excluded family member. “The restrictions in current law fail to account for the diversity of families in our state,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, “You shouldn’t have to choose between caring for your seriously ill grandmother and putting food on the table.”

California has the second highest  percentage of multigenerational households in the country. In a recent study of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, over 40 percent of caregivers were not covered under the narrow definition of family in California’s paid family leave law. 

A 2011 study found that the vast majority of employers reported that PFL had either a positive or no noticeable effect on their business productivity, profitability, and employee morale.

SB 770 now goes back to the Senate for concurrence. 

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About the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center | www.las-elc.org

Founded in 1916, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center protects the rights and economic self-sufficiency of working poor people by providing free legal services, education, and advocacy. LAS-ELC’s Work and Family Project advocates for the employment rights of pregnant workers, new parents, and employees facing family medical crises.

About the California Work & Family Coalition | www.workfamilyca.org

The California Work & Family Coalition is a project of Next Generation, and a collaborative of unions and community groups protecting every Californian’s right to a job and a life. We believe that no one should have to risk their job to take care of themselves and their families.

About Next Generation | www.thenextgeneration.org

Next Generation promotes solutions to two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans:  The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families. Through the use of non-partisan research, policy development, and strategic communications, we identify strategies that help deploy clean, advanced energy technologies; we also work to ensure a level playing field from which today’s kids can build a brighter future.  

Next Generation takes lessons learned from California, America’s largest, most populous state, and helps spread innovative ideas that can be enacted through public policy, private enterprise, families, and individuals.

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