Governor Brown Expands Paid Family Leave Eligibility, Boosts Minimum Wage, and Grants Overtime to Nannies

California’s Paid Family Leave Now Covers More Kin 

Currently, through California’s Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) insurance program, workers may collect up to six weeks of partial wage replacement benefits while taking leave under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or California’s Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or the placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption. On September 24, 2013, Governor Brown signed SB 770, expanding the PFL program to cover siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents in-law. Note, however, that PFL does not provide leave rights. CFRA was not similarly amended and, as with FMLA, only provides protected leave with reinstatement rights when taken to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a minor child within one year of birth or the placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption (among other things). Thus, employees who take leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent in-law, though they may receive partial wage replacement, will not be afforded job protection and reinstatement rights unless provided under an employer plan.

The changes to PFL take effect on July 1, 2014.  Under the new law, the term “sibling” is defined as “a person related to another person by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal or biological parent,” and “parent-in-law” is defined to include the parent of a spouse or domestic partner.

California’s PFL insurance program was established in 2004 and was the first such paid family leave program in the United States. Like California’s State Disability Insurance, PFL is funded entirely though employee payroll tax deductions and is administered by the Employment Development Department. A similar bill to expand PFL to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings and in-laws was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2007.

Minimum Wage Boosted to $10.00 an Hour by 2016

Stating that it was his “moral responsibility” to give Californians the opportunity to earn a living wage, on September 25, 2013, Governor Brown signed AB 10, which will raise the minimum wage to $9.00 on July 1, 2014 and $10.00 on January 1, 2016. Under this law, California’s minimum wage will be the highest in the country by 2016 (the next highest state minimum wage being Washington, at $9.19 an hour). Certain cities already meet or exceed this requirement. For example, San Francisco’s current minimum wage is currently $10.55 an hour, and San Jose’s is $10.00, with a required annual cost-of-living increase starting January 1, 2014. The last increase to California’s minimum wage was effective January 1, 2008 when the minimum wage was raised from $7.50 an hour to $8.00 an hour, which is the current rate. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour.

Nannies Entitled to Overtime Beginning January 1, 2014

Beginning in 2014, domestic workers in California, including nannies, housekeepers, personal attendants and private health care aides, will be entitled to overtime of time-and-a-half if they work more than 9 hours in a day or 45 hours in a week. Domestic workers are currently exempt from the state’s overtime laws. Governor Brown signed AB 241 on September 26, 2013, making California the third state to grant overtime pay to domestic workers (behind New York and Hawaii). Brown had vetoed a previous version of the bill in 2012, which included required meal and rest breaks. The current bill does not require meal and rest breaks. The new law takes effect January 1, 2014, but it is not permanent. Under a sunset clause, the law expires in 2017 if not extended by the Legislature.

California’s new law adds to the federal protections afforded some home health aides earlier this month. Beginning in 2015, federal law will require that in-home workers placed by outside agencies receive minimum wage for each hour worked and overtime for hours worked over 40 in a week.

Brown announced the bill’s signing via Twitter.