February 22, 2023
On January 1, 2023, AB 1041 took effect, marking a significant expansion of family and paid sick leave in California. This expansion is largely due to the law’s recognition of families beyond the white heteropatriarchal standards of family (that is, families that look different from the mainstream convention of mom, dad, and children) that have long informed access to critical care. Non-nuclear family structures, as Sherronda J. Brown writes, “have always existed for queer, Black, and Indigenous people.” Now, non-nuclear families are understood by the law to be families worthy of protection.
With AB 1041 in effect, California officially allows employees to take leave to care for a “designated person.” Who qualifies as a “designated person”? The law is silent; it allows the employee to decide who to designate, meaning essentially anyone can qualify. Rather than giving the state the power to define family for everyone, the law gives employees the power to define their own. Brown notes that employees are afforded “the level of autonomy and control that we all should have.” This is momentous, particularly in the context of a continued increase in non-nuclear family structures.
We at the Woodhull Freedom Foundation are thrilled that employees in California can define their families by their own standards and values. We know how important this law is in ensuring that employees and their families get the care that they need. We join Brown and other advocates, including Found Family Collective, in urging states to expand critical protections to all families, nuclear or non-nuclear, biological or chosen.