Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New California law requires paid leave for bone marrow and organ donation

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I recently read on (Southern California Public Radio) about a wonderful new California law that went into effect at the first of the year. The article, Most California Employers Required to Give Paid Leave to Bone Marrow, Organ Donors, says the law requires most employers in the state to grant paid leave to employees who choose to give the gift of life by donating an organ or bone marrow. The law applies to all California employers with more than 15 employees. The law states that employers must give 5 days off for bone marrow donation and 30 for organ donation. The statute does allow employers to require a donor to use up their sick (up to 5 days) or vacation (up to two weeks) time first. However, in order to do that, employers must adopt a written policy to that effect and then explain it to their employees.

The State of California has taken a great first step to encourage people to be living donors. Hopefully, more states will follow their lead. However, I believe the law could be improved. I would like to see the provision removed that allows employers to require a worker to use their sick or vacation time first. In my opinion, the provision penalizes the employee for choosing to do the right thing in giving the gift of life. The employee should be rewarded instead. For instance, the law could establish a new leave category for employers where the employees are not docked leave for donating. It could be called "Donate Life Leave" or "Gift of Life Leave." Or, it could set up two categories, such as "Bone Marrow Donation Leave" and "Organ Donation Leave." Two categories would allow for better tracking of leave taken. Employers would probably cry foul, though, because it would increase their leave costs and force them to cover shifts and jobs when people are out due to donation. To address those concerns, the state could do one of two things - 1) reimburse the employer for the cost of the donation leave, or 2) allow the employer to take the cost as a charitable contribution deduction on their taxes since California has a state income tax.

As I said earlier, I think the law's a great start, but it could be improved with a little work and ingenuity. Plus, when it comes to costs and money, you can't put a price tag on a human life.

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