California Assembly Bill 109 (AB 109), which came into effect January 1, 2000, is also called the "kin care" law and is designed to allow employees to use their own sick leave to take time off to care for ill family members. While previous laws allowed employees to take unpaid leave, or to take leave to care for family members with serious illnesses, this law allows employees to take paid leave to care for loved ones with minor illnesses. However, there are a number of conditions attached to the law.
The sponsor of the law, the California Labor Federation, proposed the new law because existing law did not allow employees to take time off to care for family members who were not seriously ill. They envisioned that many of the people taking advantage of this law would be working mothers with school-age children, forced to stay home from work because of a child's minor illness. The sponsor also pointed out that most state employees were already allowed to use their own sick leave for family illnesses.
Amount of Leave
Under AB 109, employees can take up to half of their annual sick leave as kin care leave. Employers do not have to advance the employee future leave if an employee wants to take more leave than they have accrued. Employers are also not obliged to give time off for kin care leave to employees who have not accrued any leave.
Employers can also impose conditions on the use of kin care leave. For example, employers can require a medical note certifying that the family member is actually ill or some notification in advance. The law also does not prevent employers from having policies that restrict sick leave to some workers--for example, allowing sick leave only to full-time workers or those who have worked longer than six months.
The California kin care law prohibits employers from disciplining or firing any employee who uses up to half their entitled sick leave in a calendar year as kin care leave. This is the case even if the employee would be disciplined for taking time off for her own illness.
Any employee who is fired or disciplined unfairly as a result of using sick leave to care for a family member is entitled to reinstatement (if fired) and either actual damages or one day's pay, whichever is greater. Employees can also bring a civil action and, if successful, can be awarded attorney's fees in addition to the other remedies.