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San Francisco Adopts a “Right to Request” Workplace Flexibility Ordinance (for employers with 20 or more on payroll)

On January 1, 2014, San Francisco enacted a “right to request” ordinance which gives certain employees working in the City the right to seek flexible work arrangements to address family needs.  The City has since amended the law to apply to employers with 20 or more employees anywhere.

The ordinance permits workers employed within the city limits for at least six months and eight hours per week to request scheduling accommodation to assist with caregiving responsibilities for: (i) children under the age of 18; (ii) family members with a serious health condition; or (iii) parents age 65 or older.

The employer must meet with the requesting employee within 21 days and respond within 21 days of that meeting.  If the employer denies the request, it must explain to the worker in writing the business reasons for the decision as well as specify that employee’s rights to request reconsideration.  Legitimate reasons for a denial include the cost of the proposed change, the detrimental effect on customer/client demands, inability to organize work among other employees, or lack of available work during the proposed work time.

The ordinance also makes it unlawful for an employer to “discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, or otherwise take adverse employment action against any person on the basis of caregiver status, in retaliation for exercising rights protected under the Ordinance, or for cooperating with the City in enforcement.”

Employers with work sites in San Francisco need to post the ordinance’s official notice and should consider modifying their applicable employment policies.