Assembly Bill 3216: Responding to the Needs of Workers During the COVID-19 Crisis

Assemblymember Ash Kalra, Congressman Ro Khanna and California Nurses Association Board Member Jennifer Holm discuss "Medicare For All" in this file photo. Photo by Nadia Lopez.

 

Many of our civic leaders are talking about staying home to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, and yet, three months into the government-mandated stay-at-home order there are still no state-wide policies in California that make it possible for people to stay home for the duration recommended by the Center for Disease Control (14 days if exposed) without losing their income and their job.

This could change if AB 3216, a new bill authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra and Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, is passed. This bill is the response we need to protect workers’ income and jobs regardless or where they work or what zip code they live in. So, what exactly would AB 3216 do for California workers if passed?

 

How AB 3216 would protect California workers:

AB 3216 would provide vital job protections for employees across the state impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, this new bill will assist workers through this public health crisis by:

  • Allowing workers to take job-protected leave through the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to care for themselves or a family member affected by COVID-19, including a family member whose school or care facility is closed due to COVID-19. 
  • Providing an additional 12 weeks of job-protected leave under CFRA that workers can use to care for themselves or their family members who are affected by COVID-19. 
  • Providing a right of recall and worker retention rights for employees who work for an employer that operates a hotel, event center, airport hospitality operation, janitorial service, building maintenance service, or security service. 
  • Providing an additional 10 days of paid sick leave to employees during a state of emergency. 
  • Expanding the uses of existing paid sick leave (3 days annually) to:   
    • Being subject to or caring for a family member subject to a public health order
    • Circumstances where an employee’s place of employment is closed due to a state of emergency
    • Circumstances where an employee is subject to an evacuation order due to a state of emergency

 

Current job protections are vastly inadequate to address these unprecedented times. 

Our current policies provide that CFRA (California Family Rights Act) and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for an employee to care for their own serious health condition or a family member’s serious health condition. Employees who use this unpaid leave are protected from, among other things, retaliation and termination. At first glance this seems like a good start to protect workers except to qualify for this leave there are several criteria that make this leave impossible for many workers to take. 

First of all, many workers cannot afford to take 12 weeks of unpaid time off of work. Secondly, a worker cannot even qualify for this unpaid job-protected leave unless they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and they must have provided 1,250 hours of service to the employer within the last 12 months. All of these loopholes mean that many workers are excluded from having any job protections at all. To make matters worse, workers who are impacted and laid off due to COVID-19 have no right under the law to be reconsidered or return to their previous employment.

Under the current California law, workers are only guaranteed three days of paid sick leave under specified conditions, which is not an effective measure to slow the spread of COVID-19 since someone who might have been exposed should quarantine themselves for at least 14 days, according to the CDC.

If we want to save our economy and slow the spread of this deadly disease that, as of today, May 18, 2020, has killed 3,240 people and has taken ill 80,299 in California alone (source LA Times, tracking Coronavirus in California), our legislators need to take action by putting into law policies that will support people in making the life-saving decision of staying home.

Now that California is in its third month of complying with the Stay-At-Home orders from California Governor Gavin Newsom, data is demonstrating that those who are low-income or are from Latino and African-American communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

For example, in Santa Clara County, the four poorest zip codes in the County also have the greatest number of infected individuals and deaths from the disease. This is a reflection of the life and death decisions that those who do not have the means to stay at home face every day—work to provide for themselves and their family or stay home and risk dropping further into poverty.

 

Taken from the Los Angeles Times website on May 18, 2020.  

  

AB 3216 will address these issues to protect workers and slow the spread of COVID-19

We are facing unprecedented times. Never before in recent history has California faced such challenges. As the state begins the careful process of re-opening its economy, it should do so with necessary job protections in place. California’s economy cannot recover without its workers. 

AB 3216 will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by allowing those impacted by the virus to remain away from work while they are being treated. Without these important measures in place, California further risks the slowing of its economic recovery and increases the public health threat of COVID-19.

 

 

What can you do to help AB 3216 become California law?

There are two ways you can get involved to help make this proposed bill become California law. 

Call in During a Hearing to provide a 1-minute comment of support

Calling in during an actual hearing is one of the more powerful ways you can voice your support for a bill. There are 3 important hearings coming up that we need people to call into. They are:

  • AB 3216 will be heard in the Assembly Labor Committee on Wednesday, May 20th. The hearing starts at 10:00am PT, but AB 3216 is last so it likely won't be heard until the afternoon or evening.
  • An expansion of job-protection is included in the governor's budget and there will be two hearings on Thursday, May 21st—one at 10:00am and the other at 1:30pm PT. 

To call in during the hearing, sign up here, and you will be connected with our advocacy organizer, Katie Waters-Smith, who will connect you with our team of paid leave advocates.

Connect with us on social media to help us raise awareness and rally support!

Make sure you’re connected via our social media and our weekly newsletter to make sure you’re getting updates on this bill and actions needed to help it pass! You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

For questions, please email Katie, our political organizing director at katie@workfamilyca.org.

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