The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today passed a “Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance.”
This new ordinance, which would apply to San Francisco businesses with 20 or more employees, grants employees with 6 or more months’ of employment who work at least 8 hours a week the right to request flexible work schedules or other workplace changes to help the employee care for (1) a child or children for whom the employee has parental responsibilities; (2) a spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild with a serious health condition; or (3) a parent age 65 or older, regardless of his or her health condition.
The employee’s request may include, but is not limited to, changes to the following:
(a) The employee’s work hours;
(b) The employee’s work times;
(c) The employee’s work location;
(d) The employee’s work assignments; and/or
(e) The employee’s predictability in his/her work schedule.
The employee’s request must be in writing and must specify what particular accommodation(s) the employee is requesting. The employee’s request must state the commencement date and duration of the proposed arrangement, as well as an explanation for how the request is related to caregiving.
A San Francisco employer who receives such a request must then meet with the employee within 21 days. Thereafter, the employer has another 21 days to decide whether or not to grant or decline the employee’s request. An employer who denies a request must explain, in writing, the “bona fide business reasons” for the denial. Such reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) The identifiable cost of the employee’s request, including lost productivity, rehiring or retraining costs, and/or transferring other employees from another facility;
(b) The detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer or client demands;
(c) The inability to organize work among other employees; and/or
(d) The insufficiency of work during the time the employee proposes to work.
If an employee’s request is denied, the employee has 30 days to seek reconsideration of the employer’s decision. The employer must then meet again with the employee and respond in writing within 21 days of that second meeting. Employers are required to keep records for at least 3 years from the date of the employee’s request.
The new ordinance specifically states that it shall be unlawful for a San Francisco employer to interfere with, restrain, deny the exercise of, or attempt to exercise, any rights granted by the ordinance. The ordinance also makes it illegal to discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or otherwise take adverse employment action against an employee for attempting to exercise rights granted by the ordinance.
The ordinance grants enforcement authority to SF’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (“OLSE”). The OLSE may investigate alleged violations and may order temporary or permanent relief to mitigate violations. For the first year of the new law, the OLSE may only issues “warnings” and “notices to correct” violations. Thereafter, however, the OLSE may impose an administrative penalty of $50 per employee per day that the violation continues. The OLSE can file a civil action against the employer to recover these penalties and any/all other appropriate remedies, including attorneys’ fees.
Supporters of the new ordinance say the measure helps both employees and employers. They point to studies showing how flexible work schedules increase productivity, reduce absenteeism, and help recruitment and retention. Opponents claim that the ordinance makes doing business in San Francisco even more administratively difficult and expensive. They fear it will drive businesses out of the City or cause new businesses to look elsewhere.
SF Mayor Ed Lee has indicated that he intends to sign the ordinance. If he does so, it will become law in San Francisco on January 1, 2014.
You can find the full text of the ordinance here.