Coronavirus: San Jose legislator introduces bill to provide job-protected leaves
Assemblymember Ash Kalra is pictured in this file photo.

    San Jose Assemblymember Ash Kalra introduced legislation Wednesday to allow Californians who are affected by COVID-19 to take a state-protected leave from their jobs, in addition to extending the leave by 12 additional weeks.

    The bill, AB 3216, would also allow employees to take a job-protected leave to care for a family member whose school or care facility is closed. The leave would be covered through the California Family Rights Act. The legislation would also provide “return to work” rights for employees who in hotels, event centers, airport hospitality, janitorial services or security.

    “While we continue to work with our federal government and public health officials to implement broader policies that will help promote healthy workplaces and necessary protections for workers, we have to consider that any employee impacted by COVID-19 should be allowed to recover away from work or care for a family member who is impacted without the fear of risking their employment or placing their co-workers at greater risk,” Kalra said.

    Kalra’s bill comes after several Bay Area cities approved similar measures to protect workers whose lives are impacted by the deadly virus, whether they test positive or are caring for a sick family member. San Jose leaders in April adopted an urgency ordinance that provides 80 hours of paid sick leave to full-time employees. It applies to all “essential” businesses, including those with 500 or more employees and small businesses with 50 or fewer workers.

    Oakland lawmakers on Tuesday unanimously approved a law requiring employers to provide up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for essential workers.

    Kalra’s proposal, which is co-authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), would provide an additional 10 days of paid sick leave to employees during a state of emergency.

    California law only requires 24 hours — or 3 days — of sick leave a year. Karla’s proposed legislation would allow workers to use their three days to care for a family member or circumstances in which their job site is closed or evacuated.

    “We need to be prepared for other emergencies as well, like the destructive and increasingly severe wildfires that have ravaged our state,” Kalra added.

    The pandemic has shown that current job protections in California are “vastly inadequate,” Durazo said.

    Gonzalez said employees should not lose their jobs or livelihoods because they’ve been quarantined due to a public health emergency.

    “It is time that our workplace rules around sick leave caught up with the rest of the world,” the lawmaker added. “We need to support working Californians to take every action necessary to prevent the spread of this disease, and we need to continue that support after this pandemic is over.”

    The bill has already won support from labor and workers’ rights groups across the state.

    Jenya Cassidy, director of the California Work & Family Coalition, said the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affects women — especially women of color — many of whom are low-wage and essential frontline workers.

    “More than half of women in the U.S. are the primary breadwinners in their families,” she said. “The lack of access to adequate leave protections therefore results in broader harm to families and the economy as a whole.”

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