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The San Francisco Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) was passed in October and will go into effect on January 1, 2014 for all San Francisco businesses with 20 or more employees. The FFWO aims to “reduce family flight” from San Francisco by affording eligible employees the right to request special arrangements from their employer designed to assist with care giving responsibilities. Although the State of Vermont passed similar legislation in May 2013, the FFWO is the first “right to request” law in the country.


The FFWO may appear to some as an expanded version of the Family and Medical Leave Act and is highly reminiscent, in both the types of arrangements provided and the process required, of a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Under the FFWO, an employee, who works at least eight hours per week on a regular basis and has completed six months of employment, may make a request for a modified work scheduled in order to assist the employee with caregiving responsibilities for (1) a child or children for whom the employee has assumed parental responsibility; (2) a person with a serious health condition in a family relationship with the employee– spouse, domestic partner, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, or grandchild; or (3) a parent age 65 or older of the employee.  The request may include arrangements such as change in start times, part-time and part-year schedules, telecommuting, and schedule predictability. 


The FFWO does provide the employer the right to deny a request if it can establish a “bona fide business reason” for the denial.  Bona fide business reasons may include, among other things, “undue hardship” factors such as the cost of productivity loss or the effect upon the remainder of the workforce. Likewise, the Ordinance gives the employer the right to require verification of care giving responsibilities.


The FFWO sets forth a detailed procedure for handling an employee’s request for a flexible or predictable working arrangement, including a requirement that the employer meet with the employee within 21 days of the request, provide a written response within 21 days of the meeting, and, if the request is denied, supply details for its reasoning. Employers are also required to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the Ordinance and maintain records regarding compliance with the Ordinance. Further, the FFWO prohibits adverse employment actions based on caregiver status, as well as interference with or retaliation for exercising rights under the Ordinance.


While its supporters hail the Ordinance for mandating a necessary dialogue between the employee and employer about flexible workplace arrangements, its critics cite to increased administrative burdens and the potential for abuse.


The FFWO only applies to those employers who employ workers within the geographic boundaries of the City and County of San Francisco, but, as workplace flexibility continues to be a popular topic with lawmakers its passage certainly begs the question – Will this type of ordinance be implemented in other cities across
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