The overturning of Roe v. Wade last year was a particularly low point for women’s reproductive health and things have appeared to go downhill since, but California’s reproductive loss law tilts the scales back towards balance. The Reproductive Loss Leave Bill will now require employers to grant time off in case of an unfortunate reproductive loss event. The Senate Bill 848, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on 10 October, will go into effect on 1 January 2024 but this is not the only provision California has made to protect the reproductive interests of its citizens and those who arrive at the state in search of assistance.
Reproductive Loss Law: What Is It?
Very few states maintain bereavement leave policies that require employers to provide paid or unpaid time off for those who experience the loss of a loved one. Fewer still acknowledge the reproductive rights of their citizens and mandate leave during times of extreme grief. California’s
Reproductive Loss Leave Bill will now require companies to grant up to 5 days of leave in case of a reproductive loss. This loss could include failed adoption, surrogacy, or assisted reproduction, as well as miscarriages and stillbirths. Not only does this apply to the mother, but spouses and domestic partners as well.
The law is a necessary one considering data such as SHRM numbers that state more than 1 in 4 pregnancies end with a miscarriage, leaving expectant parents with significant grief and post-traumatic stress. The Reproductive Loss Law in particular does not make any particular accommodations for abortion but the other bills signed do include allowances and protections for that as well.
What Does The Reproductive Loss Leave Bill Guarantee?
The reproductive loss law makes it unlawful for employers to refuse to grant eligible employees up to 5 days of leave following the reproductive loss that has been defined. The leave can be taken in the 3 months following the event. The Reproductive Loss Leave Bill states that if the employee experiences more than one such event, the employer does not have to guarantee more than 20 days of leave within a 12-month period. The employer is also not obligated to offer pay during this time unless their company policies make provisions for it. It also explicitly states that the leave days taken can be nonconsecutive.
The reproductive loss law protects employees from retaliation in case they avail of these accommodations as employers cannot punish employees for asking for their legal rights. Employers are also expected to maintain confidentiality relating to reproductive loss leave as required by an employee.
This Reproductive Loss Leave Bill or Senate Bill 848 also defines exactly to whom this law applies. An employer is any individual who employs 5 or more people to perform services for wages, as well as the state and any political or civil subdivision of it. An employee is defined as a person employed by the employer for at least 30 days before the request for leave.
Other Reproductive Laws Approved by California
Apart from the Reproductive Loss Leave Bill, the Governor also recently signed nine other bills in support of reproductive rights and their guarantees in the state. The bills also covered health care providers who are at risk for educating and executing reproductive care procedures. The move falls in line with the Governor-Led Reproductive Freedom Alliance, a “non-partisan coalition of 21 Governors committed to protecting and expanding reproductive freedom in their states.” The Office of Governor Newsom clearly states the protections enforced, other than the reproductive loss law.
- Senate Bill 345 enhances safeguards for providers against the enforcement of laws from other states criminalizing or limiting reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare.
- Senate Bill 487 provides additional protections for California abortion providers to participate in Medi-Cal programs, regardless of enforcement activities in another state, if legal under California law.
- Assembly Bill 1707 shields healthcare providers and facilities in California from state licensing actions based on enforcement of restrictive abortion and gender-affirming care laws in other states.
- Assembly Bill 254 enforces protections on digital data pertaining to reproductive and sexual health, including health tracking applications.
- Assembly Bill 352 focuses on the privacy of electronic medical records in relation to abortion, gender-affirming care, pregnancy loss, and other sensitive services.
- Assembly Bill 571 enforces restrictions on insurers and ensures they cannot refuse to provide malpractice insurance to a provider based on whether they provide reproductive or gender-affirming care.
- Assembly Bill 1720 ensures that ultrasounds and medical imaging devices are offered in licensed facilities and by licensed providers.
- Assembly Bill 1646 encourages guest rotations in medical residency programs in California for residents who do not have access to the appropriate training due to state restrictions.
- Senate Bill 385 ensures physical assistants with the right training can provide abortion care.
Senate Bill 487 has received considerable attention for its proactivity in protecting healthcare providers but the other bills are equally powerful in moving to guarantee reproductive rights. Overall, the Reproductive Loss Leave Bill or SB 848 is an uplifting move by California in an extension of their bereavement leave policy, to ensure that the expecting parents are able to set time aside to deal with their grief.
Senate Bill 497 Protected Employee Conduct
Another major bill approved on 8 October is Senate Bill 497 which protects employees from unfair treatment for conducting any tasks that are protected under the law. If an employee faces such firing or discrimination for participating in protected conduct, they are entitled to reinstatement and compensation for lost wages and benefits resulting from the employer’s actions. If an employer takes any action prohibited by this provision within 90 days of the protected activity mentioned in this provision, it would be presumed that the employee’s claim is valid unless proven otherwise.
The 90-day rebuttable presumption also extends to unfair wage gaps for equal work, and retaliation for discussing wages with other employees.
This proposal suggests a change in the law, introducing a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee for each violation by an employer. This penalty would be awarded to the employee who experienced retaliation. The Labor Commissioner, responsible for assessing the penalty, would take into account the nature and severity of the violation based on the evidence collected during the investigation. The Senate Bill 497 included amendments to Sections 98.6, 1102.5, and 1197.5 of the Labor Code.
Other Employment Laws In California 2023
There are a few other employment laws that have also been approved in California such as:
- Paid Sick Leave Increases (SB 616) for 3 to 5 days of paid sick leave
- Workplace Violence Prevention Plans (SB 553) to narrow down incidents of aggression at work
- Cannabis-Use Protections (SB 700) to ensure use of cannabis outside of work does not lead to discrimination
- Unenforceable and Void Non-compete Agreements (SB 699 and AB 1076) to void Non-compete agreements and their use in the state
The state legal system has been undergoing various revisions and most of them appear to be in favor of the everyday citizen, increasing California’s reputation as a great place to work with every new bill that is signed.