The Family Leave Mediation Bill supported by CalChamber continues to progress forward.

The California Chamber of Commerce has sponsored legislation, AB 2011 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda), to make the small employer family leave mediation program permanent. This legislation has gained support from a coalition of employer groups and local chambers of commerce, and it recently passed the Senate Labor, Public Employment and Retirement Committee with unanimous support.

AB 2011 aims to make the Civil Rights Department’s small employer family leave mediation program permanent, benefiting both workers and small employers. In 2020, SB 1383 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) expanded the family leave requirements under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). This change meant that starting January 1, 2021, CFRA would apply to small employers with just five or more employees, instead of the previous requirement of 50 or more employees. SB 1383 also expanded the family members for which an employee could take leave under CFRA to provide care.

However, the regulations governing CFRA are lengthy and complex, making it difficult for small employers to navigate without the resources to hire human resources professionals or legal counsel. Additionally, the private right of action in CFRA means that any mistake could result in a lawsuit that could potentially put small businesses out of business. To address this issue, budget trailer bill AB 1867 of 2020 required the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to establish a small employer mediation pilot program. This program allows for family leave claims brought against small employers with five to 19 employees to be sent to mediation instead of directly to court.

In 2021, AB 1033 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda) improved the processes within the program, and AB 1949 (Low; D-Silicon Valley) added bereavement leave to the scope of the program. However, the program is set to sunset on January 1, 2025. Since its inception, the program has been successful, with more than half of the mediated cases resulting in settlement and hundreds of thousands of dollars going directly to workers.

The CalChamber and coalition supporting AB 2011 believe that this mediation option has been an important way to protect small businesses while maintaining labor rights. Therefore, the Legislature should make this program permanent and expand its scope to include reproductive loss leave, which is a new leave requirement that also applies to small businesses. 

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