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California retiree advocates for caregiver workplace protections

Los Angeles workers might look forward to retirement as an opportunity to delve further into hobbies, catch up on extra reading, or perhaps just as a time to relax and enjoy freedom from work obligations. Yet one California retired firefighter is not taking time off. Instead, he's doing his part to support a proposed bill that would protect caregivers from discrimination in the workplace.

The retiree, a former Bakersfield Fire Department Captain, recently testified in support of the bill before a state Senate Judiciary Committee. The man drew upon his own experience, recounting his own employment discrimination lawsuit against his municipal employer. Currently, unpaid leave may be available to workers with caregiving responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act, and/or the California Family Rights Act. However, the retiree believes that more protections are needed.

Specifically, the man told panel members about his difficulties raising his three children after a divorce granted him legal custody. He was forced to use sick days and exchange various shift rotations with colleagues in order to free up enough time for even minimal parenting of his three sons. When a promotion opportunity was denied him, the man filed a lawsuit, alleging discrimination based on his caregiving responsibilities as a single father.

Notably, this is not the first time that California lawmakers have considered increasing workplace protections to single parents struggling to balance job duties with child raising or other family obligations. The California legislature actually passed a similar bill several years ago, but the state governor at the time vetoed it. This time around, the bill might fare better in the current political climate. If passed, protections might be available for those who need to care for young children, as well as for aging parents.

Source: firehouse.com, "Retired Calif. Capt. Fights For Anti-Discrimination Bill," Steven Mayer, April 3, 2013

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