Change to S.F. Law Could Help Workers

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Workers at businesses as small as 20 employees may soon snag certain perks after Tuesday night's final vote on an amendment to San Francisco's family-friendly workplace law.
     The city-county's Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance - sponsored by eight of 11 supervisors last July - passed on the second reading and was signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee in October. It allows San Francisco-based employees to request flexible hours, predictable working arrangements or work from home to better handle their care-giving responsibilities.
     According to the text of the ordinance, cultural and demographic shifts since the 1970s have brought a spike in both two-parent, full-time working households and single parents juggling work and family. In 2010, 80 percent of the city's parents with children under the age of 5 were working, while the number of single parent households has more than doubled in 50 years.
     Meanwhile, San Francisco lawmakers say that employers stigmatize caregivers by creating "workplace and pay inequalities," while the current business climate "idealizes the employee who works full-time and long hours, is available for extra hours on short notice, and has few if any commitments outside of work."
     To combat this, the ordinance gives employees a "right to request" flexible working arrangements to assist in caring for a child, a family member with serious health problems, or a parent aged 65 or older. These changes include how often or where the worker is expected to work, or a predictable schedule to facilitate care-giving.
     And while employers have a theoretical right to refuse the request - for cost, negative effect on business or an inability to arrange substitute coverage - the reasons for refusal must be verifiable and can be challenged by the employee. The ordinance also prohibits any sort of retaliation against workers who file requests.
     Initially, the ordinance simply included businesses with 20 or more employees based in San Francisco. Tonight, however, the supervisors will consider an amendment that contains only three words, but drastically changes the scope of the law: Regardless of location.
     If passed, this amendment will force all companies doing any sort of business in San Francisco to accede to family-friendly ordinance - no matter where they're based or how many employees actually work in the city. And while technically only the San Francisco-based workers can file the requests, officials offer no guidance on how businesses might offer such a benefit to some workers but not others.
     The original ordinance took effect on Jan. 1. The amendment - which has already cleared the first reading unanimously two weeks ago - will take effect 30 days after Lee's signature, which is expected.