AB 1606 Extends Community College Employee Leaves of Absence for New Parents

On June 25, 2014, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law, which extends leave provisions for community college district (CCD) employees within the first year of an infant’s birth or legal adoption.  In a Rocky Chávez, Assembly Member and the Bill’s sponsor, stated:

Providing paid leave to our families is critical to strengthening the bond that forms between parents and children.  That bond is vital to the long-term health and well-being of children as they grow, and helps build strong families.  This is a common sense, cost-neutral measure that will improve the lives of children and help our communities.

Existing law authorizes a CCD academic employee to use up to six days of earned leave of absence per school year for illness or injury at his or her discretion in cases of personal necessity or compelling personal importance.  (Education Code § 87784.)  Unless an exception applies, Education Code section 88207 currently authorizes probationary and permanent classified CCD employees to use up to seven earned leave of absence days for illness or injury per school year in cases of personal necessity.  Additionally, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act guarantee eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid per year to care for a newborn or newly adopted child (known as “baby bonding” leave).

AB 1606 adds sections 87784.5 and 88207.5 to the Education Code, which permit CCD faculty and classified employees to use paid sick leave to care for a new child.  More specifically, AB 1606 allows these employees to use up to 30 days of paid sick leave per school year, less any time taken for personal necessity, to care for a new child.  The leave applies to: (1) a biological parent using the leave within the first year of his or her infant’s birth; and (2) a non-biological parent using the leave within the first year of legally adopting a child.  While AB 1606 becomes effective on January 1, 2015, the Bill provides that if these provisions are in conflict with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement in effect before January 1, 2015, the conflicting provisions shall not apply to the employees who are subject to the agreement until the contract’s expiration or renewal date.

Although the legislative analyses of AB 1606 mention the availability of unpaid leave under FMLA and CFRA, the new Education Code sections do not.  Both FMLA and CFRA allow employers to require employees to “substitute” available paid leave for the unpaid statutory leave, so that paid and unpaid leaves run concurrently.  Since AB 1606 provides for paid leave under the same circumstances as FMLA and CFRA — to care for an employee’s new child — this paid leave may be substituted for unpaid FMLA/CFRA baby bonding leave, if the employer’s policy provides for paid and unpaid leaves to run concurrently.

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