SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – California state workers will not be allowed to bring their infants to work after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed Assembly Bill 372 on Tuesday.
The bill would have allowed state workers, starting January 1, 2020, to bring their infants to work until they were six months old or crawling, whichever came first.
In his veto message, the Governor wrote:
“I am returning Assembly Bill 372 without my signature. This bill would allow a state agency to adopt an Infant at Work pilot program, and adopt the necessary regulations that would permit an employee, who is a new parent or caregiver to an infant, the option to bring their infant to the workplace. I recognize the value of this program, which is in line with my commitment to strengthening parent and caregiver bonding during the earliest months of a child’s life. As such, an Infant at Work program might be worth exploring, but the bill as written exposes the state to a high level of risk of lawsuits and should be handled administratively or through collective bargaining. Moreover, the timeline stipulated does not provide adequate time to establish a policy and regulations for a program of this magnitude. Therefore, I am directing CalHR to develop a pilot program to implement this concept in a thoughtful manner.”
A similar bill was held on the Senate Appropriation Committee’s suspense file last session.
The goal of the proposed Infant at Work program is to promote parent-infant bonding time and breastfeeding. Babies would have needed medical clearance from a physician and a surgeon. Parents and caregivers would have been solely responsible for the safety of the infant, but agencies would have been allowed to adopt certain regulations or chosen to not participate if the work environment is considered “inappropriate for infants, for safety, health, or other concerns regarding the infant, the adult, or both.”
Concerns were raised as the bill has made its way through both sides of the legislature. They included negative reactions, implementation, and parents not using their full medical leave in a rush to get back to work. Questions also remained about how much the bill would cost taxpayers. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee,
“this bill would result in annual costs across the General Fund and several special funds. The magnitude of these costs is unknown, but potentially significant, and would include (1) infrastructure improvements at state-owned and leased buildings, (2) the California Department of Human Resources developing the program, drafting regulations and providing guidance to other state departments regarding implementation, (3) resolving potential workplace accidents involving infants, and (4) the cashing out of increased vacation balances for civil servants to the extent that they take less vacation time as a result of this bill than would have occurred on the natural.”
Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and Washington already have Infants at Work programs. However, several of those states do not offer paid family leave or don’t offer paid family leave to public employees. Currently, the California Family Rights Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected time to care for a child born to, adopted by, or placed for foster care with an employee. Other laws allow new moms to get dedicated time and a private space to pump breast milk.
In Washington, according to the Bill Analysis, 75 infants have successfully “graduated” since the program started in July 2015. In Arizona, the Department of Health Services started an infant at work program in 2016 and posted on its site “our program has hosted close to 200 babies. We’ve witnessed a positive boost to employee morale as our babies and coworkers enjoy having a baby in the office.”