Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Veto of Family Caregiver Protection Bill
Over the weekend, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed SB 836 (Kuehl), a state bill that would have prohibited employment discrimination based on a worker’s “familial status,” including some family caregiving responsibilities.
SB 836 was an anti-discrimination measure and not a preference statute. It did not grant family caregivers any additional entitlements. Rather, the bill was designed to clarify and fill in gaps in the law, so that California workers could not be singled out and treated worse at work based on their family caregiving responsibilities. Consider the case of California firefighter, Derek Tisinger, a single father, was passed over for a promotion for using his employer’s shift trading policy to trade shifts to allow him to care for his three sons. Other workers who traded shifts for non-family reasons were not penalized. When Tisinger sued, the court held that, even though he was treated worse because of his family responsibilities, that treatment wasn’t illegal under state law. (See Tisinger v. City of Bakersfield, 2002 WL 275525 (Cal. Ct. App., 2002).)
As WLL documented in its 2006 report, Litigating the Maternal Wall, some employees are already suing their employers—and winning—for family responsibilities discrimination under a wide array of legal theories, often taking their employers by surprise. SB 836 would have provided employers with some much needed guidance and, if nothing else, a “heads up” about the potential liability that may exist in their workplaces.