Assemblymembers Approve AB 2039

Assemblymembers Approve AB 2039

On May 30, 2012, the California Assembly passed AB 2039 (Swanson), a bill that would allow workers to take job-protected time off to care for seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children, and parents-in-law.  The bill passed with a 49 to 23 vote.

Currently, under the California Family Rights Act, job-protected leave is only available to care for one’s spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, or minor or dependent adult child.  This overly narrow definition of “family” fails to recognize the reality of modern families in California.  For example, a recent study found that over 40 percent of relatives providing care to Alzheimer’s patients were not covered under the narrow definition of family in CFRA.

Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center is the organizational sponsor of AB 2039 and has long been at the forefront of expanding the rights of workers with family caregiving responsibilities.  Through its Work & Family helpline, Legal Aid receives numerous calls from individuals who need leave from work to care for a family member not covered under existing law.  A recent caller was denied leave to care for her widowed sister who had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.  The sole caregiver for her sister, she recounted instances where she would have to drive to the hospital at 2 AM so that her sister could receive treatment for a fever or infection, and leave her at 6 AM to go to work.

Sharon Terman, Director of the Work & Family Project, emphasizes that this client’s story is not unique.  “Many workers are the only caregiver available to a sibling, grandchild, grandparent, adult child, or parent-in-law.  When we hear from workers in these heartbreaking predicaments, we can provide no assistance under existing law.”

Family medical leave is critical for the health of workers and their families, and for workers’ economic security.  By expanding the definition of “family” under the CFRA, this legislation would allow workers to care for themselves and their families without risking their jobs.