Fighting for Women's Equality

California’s Paid Family Leave Law Ten Years Later: ERA Seeks Better Usage by Underserved Communities

July 12, 2012 | by
San Francisco—As the 10 year anniversary of California’s groundbreaking Paid Family Leave Act approaches, many Californians are still unaware of their ability to take paid leave to care for a new child or seriously ill family members. As part of the California Work & Family Coalition, Equal Rights Advocates participated today in a joint press briefing with New America Media to discuss this problem, and how to raise awareness about the law among underserved communities. The briefing featured experts from the labor movement, academia, legal advocacy organizations, and a mother who directly benefitted from the law.

The Paid Family Leave (PFL) law established the country’s first family leave insurance program in California. The PFL program provides virtually all California workers with income replacement for up to six weeks when they need to take time off from work to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. The PFL program is entirely funded by workers’ contributions to the State Disability Insurance fund, and research shows that the program has offered many positive benefits to both workers and employers.

According to a report co-authored by Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center and Academic Director of CUNY’s Murphy Labor Institute, though most California workers are already paying into this program, many are still unaware of their right to use it when they need it the most. Latino and immigrant communities, renters, and low-wage workers with less education who would most benefit from the law are least likely to know about it.

“Every day I work with women who are the primary breadwinners and caregivers for their families and they are struggling to get by,” said Nicole Marquez, attorney at Equal Rights Advocates, a non-profit organization that assists low-wage workers with legal issues, including monolingual Spanish-speaking Latina clients. “These are the women who need to know about their rights under the Paid Family Leave Law—that they can take the time to recover from giving birth, or to take care of an ill parent without their family slipping into poverty.”

ERA’s role in the Coalition has been instrumental in ensuring that more workers in California are aware of their rights. For example, ERA provides a toll-free multilingual advice and counseling line, where people can call and get information about their legal rights under the PFL law. Additionally, ERA helped develop a bilingual informational video (in English and Spanish).

To mark the 10th year anniversary of the PFL law, the California Work & Family Coalition is conducting a year-long statewide outreach and education campaign to reach underserved communities with information about the program. The Coalition has developed free bilingual resources in English and Spanish including a poster on six key California laws that help parents, an informational video on the State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave programs, and a website about the PFL program. In addition, the Employment Development Department (EDD) that administers the PFL program offers brochures in multiple languages including Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Laotian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. To view these resources and learn more, visit www.paidfamilyleave.org.

Equal Rights Advocates is a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to protecting and expanding economic and educational access and opportunities for women and girls. To learn more about our work, visit www.equalrights.org.

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