On October 1, 2013, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors adopted a "Family Friendly Workplace
Ordinance" (pdf) that will take effect January 1,
2014. Mayor Ed Lee announced that he'll sign the
Ordinance, which applies to any employer who regularly employs
20 or more employees and the employer's agents. It's
unclear whether the ordinance only counts employees based in
SF. The fact that it applies to agents of
employers is important because San Francisco's Office
of Labor Standards Enforcement, which will have enforcement
responsibilities, has traditionally been aggressive in
imposing individual liability on business owners and
The Ordinance grants employees with six or more months' of
employment who regularly work as little as eight hours per
week the right to request changes to help them meet
responsibilities to care for a child; a spouse, domestic
partner, parent, sibling, grandchild, or grandchild with a serious
health condition; or a parent age 65 or older. They can request
accommodations in terms of:
The numbers of hours they work;
The schedule they work;
The work location;
The work assignment; and
The predictability of their work schedule.
The request must be in writing and must explain how the change
will help them meet their caregiver responsibilities. The employer
must then meet with the employee and respond in writing within 21
days. If it denies the request, it must explain in writing the
reason for the denial and notify the employee of his or her right
to request reconsideration.
The employee may seek reconsideration within 30 days
of a denial. The employer must then meet again with the
employee and respond in writing within 21 days of that second
meeting. It will be unlawful to interfere with an employee's
exercise of rights granted under the Ordinance or to retaliate
against an employee for exercising those rights. The OLSE will
issue a poster explaining these rights and obligations. It may also
investigate alleged violations of the ordinance's
administrative, posting, and documentation requirements, but not
the validity of the employer's reason for not granting the
request. If it finds a violation during the first 12 months, it may
only issue warnings and notices to correct. After that, it can
impose penalties of $50 for each person whose rights were violated
for each day that the violation occurred or continued. The OLSE
will establish procedures for how to appeal its determinations.
The Ordinance purports to address the fact that children make up
only 13.5% of the City's population (the lowest percentage
of any major U.S. city). According to this theory, fewer
families live in SF because employers don't accommodate their
needs for flexible scheduling. Pay no attention to the high cost of
living, the lack of affordable housing, and the better public
schools in other parts of the Bay Area. The drafters seem to think
that, once this measure takes effect, families with children are
going to ignore those other factors and come flocking back. But I
wouldn't hold my breath. I think it's far more likely
that companies thinking of locating to or expanding in
will view this as a reason to look elsewhere.
As the effective date approaches, and the OLSE issues further
guidance (including the required postings), we'll
provide updates. In the meantime, you can view a copy of the
ordinance here (pdf).
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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