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 executives.

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 SF 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).