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June 05, 2002
CA Considers Broadening Its FMLA
Cal
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ifornia is one of 26 states where lawmakers are seeking to expand their state versions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The various measures focus on removing the unpaid aspect of leave and extending the act to companies with fewer than 50 employees, the newspaper reports.

According to a U.S. Department of Labor survey, 78 percent of people eligible for FMLA don't take it because they can't afford to.

In California, SB 1661, sponsored by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, would provide workers taking FMLA with 55 percent of their weekly salary, up to $490. The benefit cap, which is indexed to the workers' compensation benefit, would increase each year.

The money would be paid through the state's short-term disability insurance fund, which covers the majority of California workers already. The Bee reports estimates that it would cost $45 a year for each employee, shared equally between employers and employees.

Kuehl's measure calls for employers to grant paid leave for:

- the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee.

- the adoption or foster care of a son or daughter of the employee.

- care of an immediate family member or domestic partner with a serious health condition.

- medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Opponents, according to the Bee, have called the bill a "job killer" and another tax on California businesses. Proponents, which include labor, women's groups and health organizations, say the bill costs are far outweighed by the benefits to families and to businesses.

"I think this is good for employers," Kuehl said. She cited a study showing that employees who received paid time off for family leave are twice as likely to return to their employers as employees who took leave and didn't get paid.

Yet business groups remain strongly opposed. It would be different if the bill weren't coming on the heels of an increase in unemployment insurance benefits, rising workers' compensation premiums, and double-digit health insurance cost increases, said Fred Main, vice president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

To view the Sacramento Bee article, click here.


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