California employers should note the following legislative developments related to employees and their familial obligations:
SB 770: Governor Brown signed into law a bill that expands the list of family members for whom an employee may take off time to provide care and receive partial wage substitution. The statute previously covered parents, spouses, children, and registered domestic partners. That list now includes seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.
San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that (a) gives employees the right to request flexible work schedules to meet caregiving responsibilities for children, certain ill relatives or parents age 65+ years old and (b) prohibits discrimination against employees due to their caregiver status or retaliation for requesting a flexible work schedule. The ordinance applies to employers with twenty or more employees, and provides a process by which an employee — with six months tenure and who is a caregiver or parent — may request a flexible work schedule. The ordinance contemplates that an employer may decline the request for business reasons, but requires the denial to be in writing and imposes a process for request, review, response and reconsideration of a request and record-keeping requirements. An employee whose request is denied may complain to San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, who has the discretion over whether to investigate. Any such investigation will be limited to the employer’s procedural compliance with the ordinance, not its reasons for denying the request. The city may also take legal action against an employer that violates the ordinance. The ordinance provides two penalties, each measured at $50 per person per day — one payable to the aggrieved employee and the other payable to the city. According to reports, Mayor Ed Lee intends to sign the ordinance, which would take effect January 1, 2014.