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Many Los Angeles workers unaware of family, medical leave law

We have previously noted that California has led the country in requiring paid leave for employees when they or a family member are sick or when they have a new child. Our state was the first to mandate paid family leave with its Paid Family Leave law. As we have also noted, the PFL program goes further than the current federal law, the Family and Medical Leave Act, which mandates that employees grant leave but not that they compensate their employees for the time off.

However, one Los Angeles City Council member, Nury Martinez, has expressed concern that too few Californians, and Los Angelenos in particular, are not aware of the PFL program. One study found that LA County has the "lowest rate of awareness" of the program in the state. That awareness is particularly low among groups who may need it most – including those with lower incomes or recent immigrants. Further, over one third of those employees eligible for the program say that they were afraid to take advantage of it because they fear retribution by their employers, even though they pay into the program through payroll deductions.

A quarter of all babies born in our state are in Los Angeles, where over one-fourth of our residents are at or below the poverty level. Therefore, it is critical for our city's workers to be able to take advantage of legally-mandated benefits that will allow them to stay home to care for a new child or a sick family member (or themselves) without losing income or risking their job.

California business leaders have reported that the PFL program has not only raised business productivity but decreased employee turnover. Councilwoman Martinez is urging business owners to ensure that their employees are aware of it. She also wants information about the program posted in public places like clinics, schools and recreational centers.

California employees who are not allowed by their companies to take leave under the California PFL program, even if they have paid into it or who are not granted unpaid leave under the terms of the FMLA, can and should seek justice. The same is true for employees who believe they have been retaliated against or lost their job because they took a leave. An experienced employment law attorney can advise these employees of their rights and the best course of action.

Source: The Daily News, "Building awareness and support for paid family leave and the FAMILY Act: Nury Martinez" Nury Martinez, Jan. 28, 2014

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