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California bill seeks employment protection for caregivers

We’ve noted previously on this blog that California has broader family and medical leave requirements for employers than most other states. A bill currently before the state legislature aims to prevent discrimination against workers who are caregivers to children or other family members.

While some localities across the country protect caregivers from discrimination in the workplace, of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, only Connecticut and Washington, D.C., have legal protections for people with “caregiver responsibilities,” regardless of whether they involve children or adults. New York is considering a measure similar to the one proposed in California.

While such protections may seem only fair to many people, some business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce are fighting it, and have done so for a few years. The group has called it “a job killer.” It has also argued that the definition of what constitutes medical care is too vague, and that such a law would increase “frivolous litigation.”

In a time when many people are raising children alone or with another full-time working spouse and/or caring for elderly parents, workers often need accommodations from employers, but businesses in California are not required to make these accommodations. Employees who say they have unsuccessfully sought to change their work schedules to handle their responsibilities, or been denied promotions because of these responsibilities say this is discrimination. However, unlike people who face discrimination based on race, gender or disability, they are not part of a protected class.

One Californian who is a proponent of the legislation is a California man who cares for three children as a single father. He lost a lawsuit against the Bakersfield Fire Department in which he claimed that his employer was not accommodating to his need to take time off to care for them, even though “they bent over backward to make sure the guys on the softball team could play softball.” He says that he was also denied a promotion because of his responsibility.

Even if caregivers gain reasonable accommodations and protected status under the law, we know that some employers still practice illegal discrimination against protected classes of people. California employment attorneys can advise those who believe they have been discriminated against on the job or wrongfully terminated to help determine if they have a viable case.

Source: The Saratogian, “New York City, Calif. bills show fight to protect caregivers” Jim Fitzgerald, Feb. 03, 2014

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