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California Grants Family Leave Protections to Small Business Employees

Over 20 years after the federal government guaranteed workers at businesses with over 50 employees unpaid family leave time, California is now extending those protections to small business employees. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed the New Parent Leave Act into law, requiring companies that employ at least 20 workers to grant new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a year after a child's birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

The law is estimated to impact 2.8 million small business employees in the Golden State. Here's what you need to know.

Eligible Employees

Senate Bill 63 updates existing family leave laws by making it illegal for an employer to:

Refuse to allow an employee with more than 12 months of service with the employer, who has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, and who works at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles, upon request, to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child's birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Employers are also prohibited from refusing to hire or discharging, fining, suspending, expelling, or discriminating against individuals who exercise their right to parental leave. The act applies to any employer who directly employs 20 or more persons as well as the state and any political or civil subdivision of the state and cities.

Family Leave Law

State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who wrote the bill, called it "a great victory for working parents and children in California." She added, "No one should have to choose between caring for their newborn and keeping their job."

The Act also includes a provision for a parental leave mediation pilot program until 2020 that allows employers who don't comply with the law to pursue mediation with an employee prior to a lawsuit. If you're wondering how the new law will impact your small business, contact an experienced employment attorney today.

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