A new law in California allows more people than anywhere in the country to take up to three months off work to care for a family member, thanks in part to a nursing mother who brought her baby to work on the last day of the year state legislative period to vote for it.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill Thursday, about two weeks after it squealed through state law a few minutes before midnight. This happened in part because Rep. Buffy Wicks, a Democrat from Oakland, returned to the legislature from maternity leave to vote for after her proxy request was denied by Anthony Rendon, spokesman for the congregation. He later apologized to Wicks.
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Wicks cast her vote with her baby by her side. A video of her bringing her baby to the gathering floor was widely shared on social media.
“I wanted to cast that vote,”
California was the first state to give people up to 12 weeks off to care for a family member while still receiving part of their salary. The money comes from disability insurance taxes paid by employees.
Since this law came into force in 2004, many people who work for smaller companies have stopped using it because they are not guaranteed to keep their jobs. In most cases, state and federal laws only protect jobs for people who work in companies with at least 50 employees.
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The Newsom Act, signed on Thursday, extends this occupational health and safety to companies with at least five employees. The law is one of the largest in the country, according to the National Conference of State Legislature.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has only made clear the need for family vacation policies that truly serve families and workers, especially those who keep our economies going,” Newsom said in a press release.
In California, women can take up to four months of unpaid vacation because of a pregnancy disability. But it’s rare for women to take the full four months because they had a pregnancy-related complication that interfered with their job duties.
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The law was a priority for the unions, but it almost never came through because corporate groups were strongly against it.
The California Chamber of Commerce said it was “disappointed” that Newsom signed the bill because it “adds a new burden to small employers”. President and CEO Allan Zaremberg urged small businesses “to pay close attention to what is being asked of them now,” noting that they could be sued for failure to comply with the law.
The law, signed by Newsom, only applies to employees who have worked 1,250 hours or more, or about 24 hours a week, over the past year. It includes bonding with a new child or taking care of a parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse or partner.
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“With this bill, millions of hardworking Californians can finally get the paid family vacation benefits they pay for without worrying about losing their jobs,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who penned the bill.