The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2014, requiring employers with 20 or more employees in San Francisco to consider flexible scheduling for workers with caregiving responsibilities.  Intended to respond to “an increased number of women in the workforce, fewer households with children that have at least one parent staying at home full time, and more single-parent households,” the ordinance provides qualifying working parents and caregivers with the “right to request” flexible or predictable working arrangements.

A flexible or predictable work arrangement may be requested by any employee who has completed six months of employment, works at least eight hours per week on a regular basis, and is the primary contributor to the ongoing care of: (1) a child or children for whom the employee has assumed parental responsibility; (2) a parent age 65 or older; or (3) a family member with a “serious health condition.”  Employees are generally limited to two requests within a twelve month period, but employers must consider an additional request if an employee experiences a “major life event” within this time frame, such as the birth of a child.  The Ordinance imposes no limits on the duration of a requested or agreed upon flexible or predictable working arrangement.

An employee requesting a flexible or predictable working arrangement must do so in writing, and must specify the arrangement applied for, the date on which the arrangement becomes effective, the duration of the arrangement and how the request is related to caregiving.  The employer must meet with an employee making the request within 21 days of receiving it, and provide a written response within 21 days after that.  The employer may require verification of caregiving responsibilities as part of this process.

The employer may deny a flexible or predictable scheduling request for a “bona fide business reason” such as an identifiable cost – i.e. the cost of productivity loss, retraining or hiring, – detrimental effect on ability to meet client demands and/or insufficiency of work.  The employer must set forth its reason for denial in writing, and notify the employee of the right to request reconsideration.  Employers are prohibited from interfering with or restraining an employee’s attempt to exercise his or her rights under the Ordinance, and from retaliating against an employee for doing so.

Employers also must comply with record-keeping requirements, which mandate retention of  required documents for a period of three years from the date that a flexible or predictable working arrangement request is made.

The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement is charged with enforcement authority and is expected to publish a notice of rights under the ordinance, which employers will be required to post in the workplace.

Employers covered by the ordinance are advised to update their internal policies and protocols to comply with its procedural and record-keeping requirements.