SB 951: Paid family leave wage replacement beginning January 1, 2025
According to the World Policy Center, the United States is one of only 2 nations in the world without paid family leave, sharing this disgraceful distinction with Papua New Guinea, a nation with a population smaller than Los Angeles County. Since its enactment in 2002, California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) program has been a model for a country woefully behind the rest of the world in terms of paid leave. Yet, with skyrocketing costs of living in the Golden State, countless workers living paycheck to paycheck, and a paid leave program that covered only a little more than half of workers’ regular wages, many Californians still could not afford to take time off. The California Budget and Policy Center estimates that high and middle-wage workers have used the State’s Paid Family Leave program at a rate 4 times the rate of lower-wage workers. Without adequate wage replacement, lower-wage workers, who are disproportionately Latinx, Black, and female-identifying, have put off seeking urgent medical care, lost precious time with newborn and adopted children, and left ailing loved ones home alone to care for themselves.
SB 951 has the potential to make paid family medical leave a reality for all California workers. Starting January 1, 2025, employees who earn 70 percent or less than the average wage in California will be eligible to receive 90 percent of their wages through the Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance (“SDI”) programs. Those who make more will receive 70 percent of their pay. With this expansion, California continues to blaze the trail towards fully paid family medical leave.
On June 24, 2022, the radical, activist, and far-right-wing conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court did something that even the über conservative Lochner-era Supreme Court didn’t do. The (Trump) Court, in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, 142 S.Ct. 2228 (2022), reversed a pair of cases that Justice Antonin Scalia’s acolyte, Judge Michael Luttig, had called “super stare decisis” – Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992). In doing so, the five radical right-wing Justices took away a fundamental constitutional right (the right to choose) for the first time in U.S. history. Perhaps most surprising about the Dobbs decision is that the right to choose was cavalierly stolen from the Country even though it was repeatedly affirmed and re-affirmed year after year for nearly 50 years in opinions written by and/or concurred in by 16 Justices – 10 different Republican Justices nominated by 5 different Republican Presidents and six Democratic Justices.
Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurring opinion, advocated for the Supreme Court to go even further toward a dystopian world straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale and reverse all of the Court’s prior substantive due process decisions, including Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965), which held that the right to privacy protected against state restrictions on contraception.
In response to both the horrific Dobbs decision and threats by Republicans to take away other reproductive rights Americans have taken for granted for decades, Governor Newsom signed SB 523, the Contraceptive Equity Act of 2022, into law on September 27, 2022. This law amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to add “reproductive health decision-making” as a legally protected category. “Reproductive health decision-making” is defined to include, but not be limited to, “a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, product, or medical service for reproductive health.”