The United States is thought of a leader in many areas, but we appear to be behind on one issue: family leave. The U.S. is currently the only industrialized country in the world that does not ensure a job once parents return from family leave. Recently California work-life advocates pushed for a bill which would have required small businesses to guarantee employees’ jobs after parental leave. The bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.
The bill would have required small businesses of fewer than 49 employees to give employees up to six weeks off of work after childbirth or adoption. Governor Brown said that the reasoning behind the veto was that the law would bring yet another expensive restriction to small businesses which already face enough challenges.
California law still goes beyond federal law
Fortunately larger employers are currently required by law to provide job protection after family leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Parents can take up to 12 weeks off without pay after childbirth or adoption without losing their jobs.
In California, despite Gov. Brown’s recent veto, workers also still have certain protections that go beyond the federal FMLA. Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an employee at a business that employs 50 or more people can take unpaid leave not only for the birth or adoption of a child, but for caregiving purposes for a close family member (child, parent or spouse).
Even further assistance is available through the state’s temporary disability program. This program is called Paid Family Leave (PFL). It is part a larger program called the State Disability Insurance Program (SDI). Under the program all workers who take family leave can receive up to 55 percent of their wages for up to 6 weeks.
Most families cannot take the additional coverage
Although anyone can use the disability program, employees at smaller companies could still find themselves unemployed in the end. According to the U.S. Department of Labor only 16 percent who were eligible for leave under the FMLA took it, and only one in five were due to a pregnancy. Instead of taking time away for their new baby many parents are pressured into using their small amount of vacation time or skipping parental leave all together.
If your employer has discriminated against you or a loved one for the birth of a child then contact an attorney. You and your family have rights under California law and may be eligible to recover damages in a law suit.