Many people struggle with family caregiving obligations — caring for young children, ill family members, or elderly relatives. Frequently, those responsible for caregiving need changes at work in order to meet their obligations. San Francisco’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, effective January 1, 2014, grants workers the right to request flexibility or predictability for family caregiving. It also prohibits retaliation against workers who make requests and prohibits discrimination against employees because they are caregivers.
FFWO grants eligible workers the right to request flexibility or predictability in their work arrangements in order to meet family caregiving obligations. Employers must grant the request unless they have a bona fide business reason to deny it, and they must explain their decision in writing.
All employees that work in San Francisco for an employer with at least 20 employees, have worked for their employer for at least 6 months, and regularly work at least 8 hours a week are protected by the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance.
The right to request flexibility or predictability means that an employee can ask his or her employer for scheduling or other changes at work to help that employee meet his or her obligations as a caregiver. Requests may include:
- Reduction in the number of hours worked
- Changes to work times or schedules
- Changes in where the employee is required to work
- Modification to work assignments
- A predictable work schedule
An employee qualifies as a caregiver under the FFWO if he or she is a primary contributor to the care of a child under the age of 18, a parent over the age of 65, or cares for a family member with a serious health condition.
An employee may request flexibility or predictability to care for family members with serious health conditions. Family members included in this provision are spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, siblings, grandchildren and grandparents, whether related by blood, legal custody, domestic partnership, or through marriage.
A serious health condition is an illness or injury, either mental or physical, that involves either:
- Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential care facility; or
- Continuing treatment or supervision by a health care provider
An employee may make a request twice every 12 months. However, if an employee has a new child (through birth, adoption or foster care placement), or needs to increase caregiving responsibilities for a covered relative with a serious health condition, then he or she can make an additional request.
An employee should make his or her request in writing and explain the modification the employee seeks, any dates relevant to the request and how the request relates to the employee’s caregiving obligations.
If the request is denied, an employee can submit a written request for reconsideration to the employer within 30 days of the decision.
An employer must meet with the employee who has made the request within 21 days to discuss the request. After the meeting, an employer must consider the request and respond in writing within 21 days. This time limit may be extended with the permission of the employee if the agreement is confirmed in writing.
The employer must give the response to the request in writing. If the employer denies a request, then it must explain the bona fide business reason for denying the request and notify the employee of his or her right to request reconsideration.
If an employee requests reconsideration of a denial in writing within 30 days, then the employer must meet with the employee within 21 days of the request for reconsideration, and must give a final decision in writing within 21 days of that meeting. This decision also must outline the bona fide business reason for denying the request.
Employers are required to keep copies of the documents produced pursuant to FFWO for at least 3 years, including request and denial letters.
A bona fide business reason required to deny a request includes, but is not limited to:
- An identifiable cost associated with granting the request, including the cost of a loss in productivity, or increased cost of training
- Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer or client demands
- Inability to organize work among other employees
- Insufficient work available during the employee’s proposed schedule
Can an employer discriminate against an employee because he or she is a caregiver, or for making a request under FFWO?
No. An employer may not fire, threaten to fire, demote, suspend, or take any other adverse employment action against an employee because he or she is a caregiver, or because he or she has made a request for flexibility or predictability outlined above. An employer is prohibited from interfering with an employee’s right to request under this provision.
Yes. Employers are required to post notice of employees’ rights under FFWO in a place at work or the job site where it is easily seen by employees.
What should an employee do if he or she has been retaliated against or unlawfully refused a request under this ordinance?
If an employee believes that he or she has been denied the right to request flexibility or predictability, reconsideration, any other right afforded under the FFWO, or has been discriminated against or retaliated against because of caregiving status or a request, then he or she should file a complaint with the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. If the employee is complaining of a violation related to a denial of his or her request, then that employee should first request reconsideration of the decision with the employer as described above.
Anyone may inform the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement if they believe that an employer has violated the FFWO.
For further information about your employment rights, contact the Work & Family Project.
This Fact Sheet is intended to provide accurate, general information regarding legal rights relating to employment in California. Yet because laws and legal procedures are subject to frequent change and differing interpretations, the Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center cannot ensure the information in this Fact Sheet is current nor be responsible for any use to which it is put. Do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney or the appropriate agency about your rights in your particular situation.