SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — As coronavirus deaths begin to increase, there’s a new push for job-protected bereavement leave after a loved one dies.
The legislation was reintroduced this week following a CBS13 special report on the fight for the right to grieve.
Allan Brown knows all too well the importance of job-protected bereavement leave.
“Just having that stress relief off. For those 10 days to just breathe would like help a lot of families,” Brown said.
The moment the new dad lost his baby girl Nala, he also lost the right to take time off work to grieve, even unpaid.
“‘Get over it’ is basically how it felt,” Brown said.
Californians are entitled to paid family leave to care for a sick family member, but they can be fired for taking even unpaid time off to grieve once that family member dies.
Assemblyman Evan Low saw Allen’s story. He’s now reintroducing bereavement leave legislation in hopes of giving all Californians the right to properly grieve, especially amid the pandemic with increasing death rates and challenges making funeral arrangements.
“It’s just completely heartbreaking,” Low said. “We should not expect the loved ones to rush back to work.”
Low said the pandemic brings challenges such as limited travel and available services.
“It’s important that we recognize and provide the basic protections for individuals to care for their loved ones and to grieve,” Low said.
Low’s bill would require businesses with 25 or more employees to offer 10 days of unpaid bereavement leave and three days for employees of small businesses.
“This is the fundamental basic amount of time to be able to provide for your family, not even the necessary amount of time,” Low said.
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Provisions in the bill would allow employees to use accrued vacation pay or paid time off, but the bill does face challenges.
Opponents led by the California chamber of commerce argue “a mandatory bereavement leave removes the flexibility employers need to balance bereavement leave requests.”
“This isn’t even paid bereavement leave. This is unpaid bereavement leave,” Low said.
California lawmakers have passed similar legislation three times, and three times it was vetoed by previous governors.
“I’m very encouraged that this governor will lead with compassion and also recognize that this is covid-related and important to support everyday Californians,” Low said.
The bill was introduced this week. We will keep you updated on developments and amendments as it makes its way through the legislature.