News

San Francisco employers soon must consider flexible work requests

by Cathleen S. Yonahara

San Francisco’s new Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance takes effect January 1, 2014, meaning covered private employers in the city must consider employees’ requests for flexible or predictable working arrangements to assist with their caregiving responsibilities.

Employers that directly or indirectly employ at least 20 employees are covered. When calculating the number of workers they employ, employers must include employees hired through temporary services or staffing agencies. The ordinance applies to any employee who works within the geographic boundaries of San Francisco, has been employed by a covered employer for at least six months, and regularly works at least eight hours per week.

The ordinance doesn’t apply to unionized employees if there is a clear and unambiguous waiver in their collective bargaining agreement.

A covered employee may request a flexible or predictable working arrangement to assist with care for (1) a child under 18 for whom she has parental responsibilities; (2) a person with a serious health condition in a family relationship with her; or (3) a parent who is 65 or older.

Within 21 days of an employee’s request, the employer must meet with the employee. The employer must consider and respond in writing to the request within 21 days of the meeting.

An employer that grants the request must confirm the arrangement in writing. An employer that denies a request must (1) explain the bona fide reason for the denial, (2) notify the employee of her right to request reconsideration, and (3) provide a copy of the ordinance provision describing the process to request reconsideration.

A “bona fide reason” for denying a request includes (1) the identifiable cost of the proposed change, (2) a detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer or client demands, (3) an inability to organize work among other employees, and (4) the insufficiency of work to be performed at the proposed work time.

What should employers do?

Covered employers must post the required notice from the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) by January 1. Employers also are advised to update employment handbooks and policies and create request forms for flexible or predictable working arrangements. In addition, employers should train HR personnel and managers on the ordinance and procedures for responding to requests. Employers with union workers should consider seeking an express waiver of the ordinance’s requirements.

For more information on this topic, see “San Francisco adopts flexible work arrangement ordinance” on page 4 of the November 11, 2013, issue of California Employment Law Letter.

Cathleen S. Yonahara is an attorney with Freeland Cooper & Foreman LLP in San Francisco. She can be reached at yonahara@freelandlaw.com.