CalChamber-Sponsored Family Leave Mediation Bill Heads to Governor

SupportLegislation sponsored by the California Chamber of Commerce to make permanent the small employer family leave mediation program is headed to the Governor.

AB 2011 (Bauer-Kahan; D-Orinda), also supported by a coalition of employer groups and local chambers of commerce, won unanimous support from the Senate and Assembly before the Legislature adjourned for its summer recess.

AB 2011 will make the Civil Rights Department small employer family leave mediation program permanent, benefitting 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). Beginning January 1, 2021, CFRA went from applying to employers with 50 or more employees to small employers with just five or more employees. SB 1383 also expanded the family members for which an employee could take leave under CFRA to provide care.

The regulations governing CFRA are lengthy and complex. Small employers do not have the means to hire human resources professionals or counsel to advise them on the details. The private right of action in CFRA means any mistake exposes small businesses to lawsuits that could quickly put them out of business.

To alleviate SB 1383’s threat of litigation for small businesses, budget trailer bill AB 1867 of 2020 required the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) to establish a small employer mediation pilot program. All family leave claims brought against small employers with five to 19 employees could 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. Without AB 2011, the program is set to sunset on January 1, 2025.

Since its inception, the program has been successful. More than half of the mediated cases have resulted in settlement with hundreds of thousands of dollars going directly to workers.

The CalChamber and coalition supporting AB 2011 believe this mediation option has been an important way to protect small businesses while maintaining labor rights. 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.

Staff Contact: Ashley Hoffman