LOS ANGELES (AP) -- California has become the first state in the country to enact a comprehensive paid family leave program that allows workers to take six weeks off to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child or ill family member.
Under the new law, which expands the state's existing disability insurance program, employees will be eligible to receive 55 percent of their wages during their absence, up to a maximum payment of $728 a week.
"This bill will make it easier for Californians to help their loved ones through a health crisis without going broke in the process," said Gov. Gray Davis, who signed the law Monday.
Supporters hope the law will serve as a nationwide model, while business groups, such the California Chamber of Commerce, denounce it as too costly for employers. The group led a coalition that tried to kill the measure.
"It's very discouraging, and California small businesses are going to pay the price for this bill," said Julianne Broyles, a lobbyist for the state Chamber of Commerce. "They are going to have to compete with similar businesses in other states that don't have to contend with this. It's a very bad bill for the governor to sign."
She said the law fails to address the real cost to employers, which includes paying for additional overtime, replacement workers and training.
Workers will be allowed to start taking time off as of July 1, 2004 under the new program, which will be funded entirely by employee payroll deductions, averaging about $27 a year and ranging up to $70 a year for those earning more than $72,000 annually.
About 13 million of California's 16 million workers will be eligible.
Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to hold a job for a worker who goes on paid family leave, according to the AFL-CIO, which helped write the bill.
The bill is the latest of several groundbreaking laws passed in California this year. Earlier, California became the first state to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and Davis signed a bill Sunday that allows stem cell research -- a move that runs counter to Bush administration policy.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.