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Bills expand job protections for family caregivers
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SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Assembly Democrats approved two bills Wednesday that would expand protections for California workers who care for children or family members, acting over the objections of Republicans who called the bills "job killers."

Lawmakers approved legislation Wednesday by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, sending both to the Senate.

Brownley's bill, AB1999, adds "family caregiver status" to the list of employees protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. Brownley said many workers feel pressured to hide their caregiving role while they are at work for fear that it will make them more vulnerable to layoffs or other adverse actions.

Republican lawmakers said it was yet another restriction on struggling business owners and employers who already are forced to navigate a maze of regulations.

"California already has enough laws to protect employees from any type of discrimination," said Assemblyman Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga. "It's going to encourage costly and frivolous lawsuits."

Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, said the legislation simply ensures that an employer doesn't discriminate between two equally qualified employees by promoting a staffer who has no children instead of one who has several kids.

It passed the Assembly on a 41-24 vote.

Swanson's measure, AB2039, expands the list of family members for whom workers can take unpaid leave if they need to provide care. Under the bill, the list would include grandparents, parents-in-law, siblings and adult children.

Swanson said the bill was "about family values," but GOP lawmakers said it was another Democratic "job killer" that would make it harder for California businesses to compete with those in other states.

"All we do by trying to create these laws is create new opportunities to sue your boss," said Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton. Norby said that will make companies more reluctant to hire workers in California.

Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, said Swanson's bill was essential to keep California laws up to date with its changing family dynamics. She also said 1 million California veterans are returning to the state, many of whom will need care after being injured in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Who is going to be available to take care of them, our already strained state and federal systems?"

Swanson's bill passed 49-23.

Both bills need approval from the state Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown's signature before they would become law.