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According to a recent survey, the Golden State is the best place in the nation to work while raising a family.

The National Partnership for Women & Families graded each state, using the 1993 Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as a benchmark. California was one of the only jurisdictions to score an “A” in all four categories – workplace protections for pregnant and nursing mothers, paid medical leave, paid sick days, and pregnancy accommodations. California was also the only state to move up from “Expecting Better” to “A”, leading NPFW Senior Counsel Sarah Fleisch-Fink to remark that the Golden State “simply has the most protections in place for new and expecting parents of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

Probably not coincidentally, eleven of the twelve failing states had anti-union right-to-work laws. But what are the California laws that protect working parents, and what do they mean for you?

Understanding Parenting Leave Laws in California

This year, Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign Senate Bill 654, and if it becomes law, it will be a notable addition to the already vast network of state laws that protect working parents. SB 654 would actually expand the state’s family leave law to smaller businesses. After some initial opposition to the concept, SB 654 passed with rather comfortable margins.

Initially, the proposal from Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) applied to companies with as few as five employees. After Senate Bill 1166 failed, the measure’s authors raised the limit to ten or more workers.

Fifteen years ago, California became the first state to mandate paid parental and family leave from work. Under current law, which was just amended in April 2016, parental leave is as follows:

  • Lower-wage workers are eligible for 70 percent of their pay for six weeks, and
  • Higher-wage workers receive 60 percent of their pay for six weeks.

California Localities Have Their Own Family Leave Initiatives

What makes California such a family-friendly workplace state is the fact that state laws go beyond federal laws. Additionally, many California localities are proposing their own efforts to further expand protections for working parents.

Recently, one of the most generous family leave packages in the country was approved in San Francisco. Part of the new ordinance requires businesses to make up the difference between the amount of leave pay that the state pays and the full amount of wages.

Silicon Valley is jumping on the paid family leave bandwagon as well. At roughly the same time that San Francisco passed its new family leave package, Twitter declared that it would offer a staggering 20 weeks of full-paid leave to some new parents.

The trend could likely continue. This fall, voters in San Jose will consider the “Opportunity to Work” initiative. This measure would require local businesses to offer full-time employment to current part-time workers before they hire new employees. Labor advocates say the proposal forces companies to elevate the status of part-time workers, while business groups rather predictably oppose the idea. This initiative could positively affect working parents who seek full-time employment, and the parental leave benefits that come along with it.

California Employment Laws & Working Parents: For Further Reading

  • San Jose voters to decide on ‘Opportunity to Work’ via MercuryNews.com
  • Brown signs California law boosting paid family-leave benefits via LATimes.com
  • California SB 654 Full Bill Text
  • Study: California Best State for Laws to Help Working Parents via Capital & Main
  • The California Family Rights Act: Your Questions, Answered

Is your employer violating California family leave laws or other laws that protect working parents? If so, contact the passionate employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz to discuss your options today.