San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance Takes Effect
American society today is engaged in an ongoing cultural conversation about work-life balance and how anyone – and particularly women – can “have it all.” In an effort to address the rapidly changing demographics of the nation’s workforce, San Francisco recently became the first American city to pass a “right to request” law, joining Vermont, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand in giving workers the right to request a flexible work arrangement. The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) took effect on January 1, 2014 and provides protections for employees who regularly work at least eight hours per week in San Francisco for an employer with at least 20 employees, have been employed by an employer for at least six months, and have care-giving responsibilities for one of the following groups:
- A child or children under the age of 18;
- A person with a serious health condition in a family relationship with the employee; or
- A parent of the employee, aged 65 or older.
Employees who meet these conditions and seek a flexible or predictable work arrangement to assist with their care-giving responsibilities must make their request in writing. Upon receiving the request, employers must meet with the employee to discuss the request within 21 days and then must provide a response to the request within 21 days after meeting with the employee. The employer’s decision must be in writing and, if the request is denied, the employer must provide the employee with a bona fide business reason for the denial and notify the employee of the right to request reconsideration. Should the employee request reconsideration, the employer must have a second meeting with the employee and issue a final decision 21 days after that meeting. According to the City and County of San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE), bona fide business reasons for denying an employee’s request for a flexible work arrangement may include: identifiable cost, such as productivity loss, retraining or rehiring cost, or the cost of transferring employees; detrimental impact on the employer’s ability to meet customer or client demand; inability to organize work among other employees; or insufficient work during the employee’s proposed schedule.
Adverse Action and Retaliation
The FFWO also explicitly prohibits employers from taking any adverse employment action against an employee on the basis of the employee’s caregiver status or in retaliation for exercising rights afforded by the FFWO. These rights are enforced by the OLSE, which will issue warnings and “notices to correct” during 2014, the first year that the FFWO is operative. Beginning in 2015, the OLSE may order any appropriate relief, including penalties of up to $50 per worker per day, paid to the employees or up to $50 per worker per day to compensate the City for enforcement costs. The City of San Francisco also has the right to bring a civil action in court.
Flexible Work Arrangements are Better for Everyone
Studies and experience indicate that the flexible work arrangements promoted by the FFWO will benefit both employees and employers. In the United Kingdom, during the first year of implementing the right to request, nearly all of the million requests for a flexible arrangement were granted. Employee satisfaction, morale, and overall well-being are expected to improve, and employers who implement workplace flexibility are better able to attract and retain key talent, reduce overtime needs and absenteeism, and enhance employee productivity, effectiveness, and engagement.
If you are an employee seeking additional information about your rights or an employer seeking additional information regarding your duties, the OLSE’s FFWO resources can be found below:
Full text of the FFWO: http://sfgsa.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=11033
FFWO website: www.sfgov.org/olse/ffwo
FFWO email: FFWO@sfgov.org
FFWO helpline: (415) 554-6424