California legislators early Saturday morning approved the biggest expansion of employer-paid sick leave in the nation and sent the measure to Gov. Jerry Brown.
AB 1522, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, covers workers whether they work full- or part-time. Businesses with one or thousands of employees must comply with the new regulations.
The bill would enable workers not currently covered by a company plan to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. They could draw it after working 90 days on the job and bank three paid sick days a year.
Gonzalez said that the Assembly approved the bill on a 52-21 vote shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.
"I'm very happy. Obviously, this is something we've been working on all year," she said. "It's going to affect 6.5 million Californians who right now don't have the opportunity to earn a single hour of paid sick leave. And it won't hurt businesses. It gives (workers) the opportunity to take a day off if they are ill and not have to worry about making ends meet. And more importantly to me is it gives a parent the opportunity to take care of a sick child without losing a day's pay."
Brown seems certain to sign the bill.
"Tonight, the Legislature took historic action to help hardworking Californians. This bill guarantees that millions of workers -- from Eureka to San Diego -- won't lose their jobs or pay just because they get sick," Brown said in a statement Saturday afternoon.
His spokesman, Jim Evans, said that Brown had not yet signed the measure but that he did work with Gonzalez in developing the legislation.
The bill will go into effect on July 1, 2015, once the governor signs it. The long lag time is needed to work out the specifics of the regulations, but the burden will be on the employers to keep track of the work hours, Gonzalez said.
Business groups opposed the measure and the California Chamber of Commerce had branded it a "job killer." Gonzalez said that label was removed by the chamber late Friday afternoon after the measure was amended to the chamber's satisfaction. Chamber officials could not be reached for comment on Saturday.
The Sherman Oaks-based Valley Industry and Commerce Association mounted a campaign against the measure and is disappointed it passed.
"It's really going to hurt small businesses. It's hard for a small business to track their part-time, seasonal and temporary workers," said VICA President Stuart Waldman. "Unfortunately it's going to open them (employers) up to considerable litigation and (guarantee) full employment for trial lawyers. I think a lot of our members are concerned. The state just keeps putting them in a position to not want to hire part-time employes."
Colin Strange, director of business resources at the San Bernardino Area Chamber of Commerce, said that the bill should only apply to businesses with 25 or more employees.
"It's not workable. It's unfeasible" for smaller businesses to have to deal with the measure, he said.
It could also stifle job creation.
"It may be the choice of having a micro-business and a job or no business and no job," Strange said.
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