San Francisco’s emergency COVID-Related Hazard Pay Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), which became effective on March 22, 2021, required certain large San Francisco employers (primarily grocery stores and drug stores with 500 or more employees worldwide) to pay employees an additional $5.00 per hour in hazard pay on top of their regular hourly wage, up to a total wage of $35.00. The Ordinance in San Francisco followed the enactment of legislation in other Bay Area cities (including Oakland, Berkeley, South San Francisco, San Mateo, Daly City, San Jose, and Santa Clara) and elsewhere in California.
The Ordinance expired today, and the hazard pay requirement was therefore lifted. Though the Ordinance could theoretically be reenacted in the future, which would reinstate the hazard pay requirement for covered employers, that seems unlikely at this time in light of the high COVID vaccination rates in the Bay Area coupled with low COVID infection rates.
Though the Ordinance itself has expired, employers have at least two continuing obligations related to its requirements:
- Employers cannot discriminate or take retaliatory action against any person for requesting hazard pay under the Ordinance. Under the terms of the Ordinance, taking adverse action taken against a person who exercised his/her/their rights under the Ordinance within the prior 90 days creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer retaliated against that person. Adverse actions that would trigger the rebuttable presumption include, but are not limited to, termination, demotion, reducing a person’s base pay, or even reducing their scheduled work hours under some circumstances.
- Employers covered by the Ordinance are required to retain records related to hazard pay for four years, including but not limited to copies of the written notification the employer provided to workers as required by the Ordinance, and documentation proving the employer paid appropriate hazard pay to eligible employees. Covered employers must be prepared to provide these records to San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) upon request. Therefore, covered employers must not purge these records simply because the Ordinance has expired.
A similar (though not identical) ordinance remains in effect in the City of San Mateo until May 30, 2021, unless it is reenacted.