Governor Signs AB 237: Mandates Continuation of Health Insurance for Striking Employees

On October 9, 2021, the Governor signed AB 237 which makes it an unfair practice for an employer to discontinue its health insurance premium contribution for a striking employee. AB 237 covers any “authorized strike” which is defined as a strike sanctioned by the relevant central labor council or the membership of the union representing the striking employees. So a wildcat strike is not covered. Where there is a sanctioned strike, AB 237 requires the employer to treat the striking employees as if they are working for purposes of any contributions towards health care or other medical coverage.

Comments:

  1. As I previously wrote, most public employers have rules that an employee needs to be on some form of paid status for a certain number of days in a month to receive the employer’s contribution towards any health insurance premiums. Thus, the timing and/or duration of a strike could cause an employee to forfeit the employer’s contribution in a given month. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with an employer enforcing such an established rule. But AB 237 now prohibits such a rule for striking employees.
  2. Extended strikes are rare in the California public sector. Most strikes are 1 to 5 days and seldom do they affect an employee’s entitlement to health insurance. So this new law will have little practical effect. However, I still think it’s bad public policy because a strike, by definition, means that you are not working; therefore you should not expect to get pay and/or benefits for the time you are not working. I don’t think employers should intentionally cut off the health insurance of striking employees—that would be an unfair practice even under existing law—but I don’t think employees on strike should receive benefits that are intended for those at work.

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