Skinner’s SB 926 to Help Low-wage Workers Escape Abusive Workplaces Passes 

August 21, 2018

Today the California Legislature passed Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) SB 926, the “Workplace Protection Act,” which would protect participants in CalWORKs and CalFresh programs from losing benefits if they leave a job due to violations of their workplace rights. Skinner’s bill now awaits Governor Brown’s signature.

“CalWORKS and CalFresh help low wage workers keep food on the table and a roof over their heads when the minimum wage just isn’t enough,” said Senator Skinner. “But the threat of losing those benefits can keep participants in jobs where they’ve experienced sexual harassment, discrimination or other workplace violations.”

A significant number of California’s low wage workers are eligible for cash and food assistance through state and federal safety-net programs, including the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program and CalFresh.

CalWORKs and CalFresh participation requires individuals to meet specified work-hour minimums. If a CalWORKs or CalFresh participant quits their job or reduces work hours, even in response to workplace abuse, their benefits can be taken away for months at a time. As a result, participants feel compelled to remain in unsafe, unreasonable, or unlawful workplaces to preserve their program eligibility.

SB 926 addresses these issues by preserving CalWORKs and CalFresh benefits for participants who “voluntarily” leave a job or reduce their hours in response to a violation of their employee rights. SB 926 also requires county human services agencies to provide participants with information about their employment rights and how to file a complaint if their rights have been violated.

“In an economy as strong as California’s, no one should face the choice of going hungry or staying in an inhumane work environment,” said Skinner. “SB 926 will prevent California workers from having to choose between the wellbeing of their families and their right to not be abused or harassed at work.”

Senator Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District. She serves as Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, Public Safety and the Judiciary.