Good News for Women: California Gov. Gray Davis Signs Bill Allowing Paid Family Leave
September 30, 2002
by NOW Staff
In a tremendous victory for women's and family rights in the nation's most populated state, California Gov. Gray Davis last week signed legislation allowing most of the state's workers to take paid family leave.
Written by longtime women's rights advocate Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), the bill allows most workers to receive about 55% of their salary during six weeks of leave to care for a new child or sick relative. Funded entirely by employee payroll deductions, the program will expand the state fund providing insurance for disabled workers. About 13 million of California's 16 million workers would be eligible.
Workers will be allowed to take leave to bond with a new child whether by birth, adoption or foster care or to take care of a sick child, spouse, domestic partner or parent. Sick leave for the employee's own illness is already provided under current law.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but studies show that many workers do not take advantage of the time off because they cannot support themselves without a paycheck. As many as 78 percent of workers nationwide who need family leave cannot afford to take it unpaid, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Feminist leaders, who for decades have supported paid family leave, celebrated the governor's decision to make California the first state to enact comprehensive legislation.
"I applaud Sheila Kuehl's leadership and California's passage of this landmark legislation that will help workers in times of need. No one should have to choose between family and paycheck," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "I hope other states will follow California's lead in making workplaces more family friendly. It's good business, and it's good for business."
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