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San Francisco Flexible Work Ordinance Signed Into Law

SAN FRANCISCO FLEXIBLE WORK ORDINANCE SIGNED INTO LAW

The San Francisco City Council recently approved a measure known as the San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance which allows employees in San Francisco, working for companies with 20 or more employees, to take advantage of flexible work schedules, part-time and part-year schedules, telecommuting and schedule predictability.  The ordinance was just signed into law by Mayor Edward Lee and will take effect on January 1, 2014. Our San Francisco team of Chris and Mark LeClerc, who co counsel with Steve Danz on all Bay Area cases, are expecting many inquiries concerning the implementation of this new law. (We continue to practice exclusively in our Financial District Office representing employees only in the usual categories protected by the California Government Code, such as age, sex, race, national origin physical and mental condition discrimination, wrongful termination, and industrially-injured worker retaliation and whistle blowers.

The City Council bases its need for the ordinance upon the following statement:

San Francisco has the lowest percentage of children of any major city in the country, representing only 13.5 percent of the population at the time of the 2010 census. Thousands of families have left since the last census, and a 2011 DCYF Community Needs Assessment found that family flight is even more significant among families of color. One way to reduce family flight is to make San Francisco’s workplaces more family friendly.  In 2010, of San Francisco parents living with at least one child under five, 81 percent were in the workforce.

They go on to point out that most workers today are routinely asked to combine work and family responsibilities, often in next to impossible ways.  Low wage and higher wage workers alike often face work schedules that make juggling daycare, after school pickups, doctor appointments and soccer games extremely challenging.  Some employers require employees to work without notice even if they have a preexisting care-giving obligation or a responsibility to work a shift at another job. There is also growing evidence that employment discrimination against parents and caregivers is on the rise, and many employees are concerned about retaliation simply for asking for an accommodation.  These are not merely private challenges, but public issues that impact the entire economy.

The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance would do two main things: It would provide San Francisco employees who are caretakers or parents the right to request predictable and flexible workplace schedules, and it would prohibit employment discrimination based on an employee’s status as a caretaker or parent.

Creating a ‘Right to Request’ for San Francisco Employees

The law would grant San Francisco employees who are caregivers for children or dependents the right to make requests of their employers for changes to their working arrangements in order to meet care-giving responsibilities. An employer would have a duty to consider and respond to an employee’s request.

A request could be for a flexible work arrangement, or it could be for greater scheduling predictability.

Workplace flexibility refers to practices that enable employees to exercise more choices about how, when, and where they work to meet their particular work/care-giving balance needs.  Examples of flexible work arrangements include a change in start or end times, part time schedules, part year schedules, job sharing, and telecommuting.

Workplace predictability refers to the assurance that workers will know their work schedules with adequate advance notice so that they can make care-giving arrangements for dependent family members.

The proposed law lays out procedures for how an employee would make a request for flexibility or scheduling predictability, as well as a process for employers to consider such requests. The ordinance also outlines “undue hardship” reasons that allow businesses to deny a request, including an increase in costs to the business (including productivity loss and the costs of retraining, transferring, or hiring employees), a negative impact on the ability to meet customer demands, an inability to organize work among remaining employees, and an insufficiency of work during the time requested by an employee.

When a request is declined, an employer would be obliged to provide the reason for its decision in writing.  Employees would have to work for a business for at least six months in order to have the “right to request”, and small businesses under 10 employees would be exempted from the law because of the challenges they likely would face granting flexibility with so few employees.

Prohibiting Caregiver Discrimination

The proposed law would also prohibit employment discrimination based on care-giving status. This aspect of the proposal is critical not just for the reasons described above, but it underpins the implementation of the “right to request.” If employers are allowed to discriminate against workers with care-giving responsibilities, those who request a flexible or predictable work arrangement could be at risk of retaliation.

Enforcement and Administration

The City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) would be charged with administering and enforcing the law. OLSE currently administers and enforces local labor laws such as the Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Leave, and Health Care Security ordinances. The law also provides for the City to take civil action through the City Attorney against an employer that violates the law.

If you have questions about the San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance or about any other employment related issues as an employee in San Francisco or throughout California, do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of Stephen Danz today.  Stephen has been defending the rights of employees in California for over 20 years and has a proven track record resulting in millions of dollars worth of judgments for his clients.  Schedule your free consultation through our toll free number (877) 789-9707, or through the contact portion of this website.