Pending bills provide more protections for employees pertaining to parental issues

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Two bills are currently being considered in the state legislature that enhance protections for employees related to the following medical / parental issues:

Baby bonding leave

SB 63 was introduced into the legislature late last year, and it is basically an expansion of the baby bonding provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act / California Family Rights Act to smaller employers. It would require a covered employer to allow an employee with more than 12 months of service with the employer, and who has at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer during the previous 12-month period, 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. The employer would also be required to maintain and continue to pay for the employee’s coverage under a group health plan and would be obligated to provide the same or comparable job to the employee upon return from such leave.

As currently written, this law covers employers with 20 or more employees within 75 miles of the worksite, but would not cover employees who are otherwise covered by the FMLA / CFRA, which applies to employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the worksite. Although it does not expand the FMLA / CFRA’s provisions to smaller employers for leave related to serious medical conditions, those employers may be otherwise required to provide leave to employees with serious medical conditions under their disability accommodation obligations.

Anti-discrimination law regarding use of reproductive services

AB 569 would require an employer from taking any adverse employment action against an employee based on the use of any drug, device, or medical service related to reproductive health by an employee or employee’s dependent, or from requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document that denies any employee the right to make his or her own reproductive health care decisions, including the use of a particular drug, device, or medical service. Under this proposed law, “adverse employment action” includes, but is not limited to, termination, demotion or refusal to promote or advance, loss of career specialty, reassignment to a different shift, reduction of hours, reduction of wages or benefits, refusal to provide training opportunities or transfer to a different department, adverse administrative action, or any other penalty or disciplinary or retaliatory action.

Under this law, an employer would also be required to include in its handbook a notice of employee rights and remedies under the provisions of this bill.

Both of these proposed laws are still being worked and amended, and it will probably be months before their final disposition is known. However, they reflect the increased attention by lawmakers to employee issues related to child rearing and pregnancy, and that trend is likely to continue.