Assemblymember Ash Kalra Introduces Critical Legislation Protecting Workers, California Economy from COVID-19 Impacts

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Following Governor Newsom’s request for emergency legislative action to fight COVID-19, Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) today announced Assembly Bill (AB) 3216, to ensure an array of job protections for employees across the state impacted by the disease. California’s economic recovery hinges on the economic security of its workers who will be supported by provisions detailed in this proposed legislation.  The bill is co-authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) and Senator Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles).

“Given California’s connectedness to the rest of the world, it is absolutely critical for us to consider measures that will help prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “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.”

“We need to be prepared for other emergencies as well, like the destructive and increasingly severe wildfires that have ravaged our state,” he added. “Implementing long-term policies—policies that many countries have already adopted—will help get people through a crisis like this in the future and will also ensure employers have consistent procedures they can follow that preserve their businesses during states of emergency.”

“Employees should not lose their livelihood if they miss work because they have been quarantined or isolated due to a public health emergency like the coronavirus. It is time that our workplace rules around sick leave caught up with the rest of the world,” Assemblywoman Gonzalez said. “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.”

“We are in unprecedented times,” added Senator Durazo. “Workers are making incredibly difficult sacrifices every day, deciding between providing for themselves and their families or staying home, forcing many into poverty. This pandemic demonstrates that current job protections are vastly inadequate. We must take action now to support all working men and women. We can’t let the working poor go deeper into poverty, nor middle class to be pushed into poverty. During unprecedented times we need unprecedented measures to meet the challenge.”

AB 3216 will assist workers through this public health crisis by:

  • Allowing workers to use leave through the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to care for themselves or a family member affected by COVID-19, including a family member whose school or care facility is closed due to COVID-19. 
  • Providing an additional 12 weeks of job-protected leave under CFRA that workers can use to care for themselves or their family members who are affected by COVID-19. 
  • Providing “return to work” rights for employees who work for an employer that operates a hotel, event center, airport hospitality operation, janitorial service, building maintenance service, or security service.
  • Providing an additional 10 days of paid sick leave to employees during a state of emergency.
  • Expanding the uses of existing paid sick leave (3 days annually) to:
  • Being subject to or caring for a family member subject to a public health order
  • Circumstances where an employee’s place of employment is closed due to a state of emergency
  • Circumstances where an employee is subject to an evacuation order due to a state of emergency

“California’s economic recovery hinges on the economic security of workers,” said California Labor Federation executive secretary-treasurer Art Pulaski. “AB 3216 is critical legislation that prioritizes worker protections to meet the unprecedented challenges ahead. We must ensure that our North Star in reviving California’s economy is putting working people at the front of our recovery.”

“We’re making sure those who were left out of the new federal leave protections get covered by the state,” explains Mariko Yoshihara, Policy Director of the California Employment Lawyers Association, co-sponsoring the bill. “Protecting workers’ jobs and their ability to care for themselves and their families is how we can best stabilize our workforce and the economy, and keep our state healthy. The current crisis simply requires that we continue to apply policies that get working families back to work safely.”

As of May 12, there are at least 71,046 cases of COVID-19 and 2,882 deaths in California. The number of cases in California is now on pace to double every 26.8 days, a reflection of how quickly the virus is spreading.[1] While there are many types of human coronaviruses, Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. Its recent outbreak has now spread globally and the most common symptoms include fever, cough, and respiratory symptoms. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has now surpassed 4.1 million worldwide.

Additional quotes from AB 3216 cosponsors:

“AB 3216 is a critical step to protect the health, safety, and economic well-being of Californians. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exposed longstanding problems low-wage workers face every day: gaps in coverage and lack of access to crucial safety-net programs including paid sick days and job protected leave. As California’s working families continue to provide essential services and return to work, the state must ensure that workers can stay home when they’re sick or need to care for their family without risking their jobs and income.” - Jenna Gerry, Staff Attorney, Legal Aid at Work

“The COVID-19 crisis has exposed how crucial it is for all workers to have the time to care for themselves and their families. We're thrilled to join with our members across the state and Assemblymember Kalra’s office in support of AB 3216.” -  Jenya Cassidy, Director, California Work & Family Coalition

“The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women, particularly women of color, who constitute the majority of low wage and minimum wage workers, and many of whom are essential frontline workers. More than half of women in the U.S. are the primary breadwinners in their families. The lack of access to adequate leave protections therefore results in broader harm to families and the economy as a whole. We are proud to cosponsor this important legislation to ensure that all workers are able to take job protected leave when they need it most.” - Jessica Stender, Senior Counsel for Workplace Justice & Public Policy, Equal Rights Advocates

“COVID-19 has underscored and exposed the dangerous gaps we have in our safety net which impact our low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women of color and immigrants. We are excited to cosponsor AB 3216 because there is a critical need to provide California’s working families with the ability to take the time off they need to care for themselves, their families, and their communities.” - Aditi Fruitwala, Staff Attorney for the LGBTQ, Gender, and Reproductive Justice Project,  ACLU of Southern California​​​​​​​