Retired Bakersfield fire captain seeks help for caregivers

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Retired Bakersfield Fire Department Capt. Derek Tisinger was once a single father with custody of three young boys. Juggling his work hours to provide care for his sons was difficult.

"It was a real challenge as a firefighter, with the schedule that we worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off, to provide adequate day care for my children," said Tisinger.

But, he would find ways to legitimately take time off work to tend to his boys' needs.

Tisinger said he was discriminated against because he took time off to care for his children.

"I literally went to work every day with a cloud over me, wondering if I was going to have a job or not," said Tisinger.

The single father filed an employment discrimination suit in 1997 against the department and the city of Bakersfield. A jury ruled in his favor, but the verdict was reversed on appeal three years later.

Tisinger has hardly given up. He's been "the poster child," as he puts it, for a proposed law in California that seeks to end employment discrimination based on a person's family caregiving responsibilities.

Tisinger has testified in Sacramento in favor of SB 404, sponsored by Sen. Hannah Beth-Jackson. The bill would cover those who provide "medical or supervisory care" to children, spouses or parents.

"This would require (employers) to treat everybody across the board the same," said Tisinger. "If you let somebody off to go play softball, if you let somebody off to go coach soccer, you gotta let somebody off to go home and take care of their kids or their loved ones."

But, the State Chamber of Commerce claims the bill is too vague and would be detrimental to employers. It says SB 404 is a jobs killer.

The bill is currently making its way through the legislative process.