San Francisco's Board of Supervisors has passed an ordinance that would allow employees with dependents the right to request more workplace flexibility. The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance would allow workers to submit a written request for an alternative work schedule that would better fit their caregiving needs. Because the ordinance has a high likelihood of being signed by the mayor, San Francisco employers with 20 or more employees should ready workplace policies for compliance with the ordinance's provisions.
Although the ordinance would not require that the request be granted, it would place certain responsibilities on employers. For example, after an employee requests added flexibility, an employer must then meet with the worker within 21 days to discuss the request. The employer must then respond to the request in writing within 21 days of the meeting and, if applicable, provide a reason for denying the worker's request. If the request is denied, the worker would then have the right to ask for reconsideration of the request within 30 days after the initial denial.
Although the ordinance does not actually require employers to grant employees' requests for alternative work schedules, it contains a provision mandating an employer to state a bona fide businessreason for rejecting a request, e.g., added business costs or a detrimental effect on its ability to meet customer demands. The ordinance also includes retaliation protections for workers who have made a request under the ordinance and establishes posting, notice and recordkeeping requirements for employers.
The proposed ordinance encompasses not only workplace flexibility, but also workplace predictability. Flexible working arrangements include:
Part-time schedules; or
Predictable working arrangements do not necessarily encompass changes to one's start times or place of work, but would give workers advance notice if, for example, a special project would require longer hours so that adequate caregiving arrangements can be made.
Ordinances, work rules and internal policies that encourage workplace flexibility often have the effect of increasing employee retention and motivation. An employer that enlists employees' opinions on the best ways to manage workloads, especially through flexible options such as telecommuting, could experience decreased absenteeism rates and a consequent rise in overall productivity.
San Francisco would be the first municipality to pass a "right to request" ordinance. Vermont passed a similar "right to request" law earlier this year.
If finalized and signed by the mayor, the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance would take effect on January 1, 2014. The Ordinance would appear in Chapter 12Z of the Administrative Code of San Francisco and would be enforced by the city's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement.