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California Legislature

New parents at California's small businesses would get 12 weeks of leave under bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Employees at many small businesses across California could not be denied up to 12 weeks away from work to care for a new child under legislation sent Wednesday to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill, which applies to workers with at least a year of continuous employment at a company of 20 to 49 employees, cleared its final hurdle in the state Senate. Employees would no longer be in danger of being fired when leaving to care for a newborn, similar to existing protections for workers at larger companies.

"For our lowest-income workers, this is a situation where they cannot afford to take that time working for smaller employers," said state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the bill's author.

Brown vetoed a similar measure last year, suggesting that any new parental leave law should allow for mediation before lawsuits filed by employees. As a result, the new bill requires a two-year pilot mediation program to be created by the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Jackson said 40% of workers at small businesses in California are currently at risk of losing their job when they want to take time off to care for a new child. Opponents said the smallest of businesses can't bear the costs of losing workers.

The bill was a top priority of the Legislative Women's Caucus this year, with supporters saying it could provide help to 2.7 million workers whose employers aren't covered by current law.

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