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San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City To Pass ‘Right To Request’ Law To Care For Loved Ones

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 9, 2013

Contact:
Anastasia Ordonez
media@thenextgeneration.org
415-523-8017

San Francisco Becomes First U.S. City To Pass ‘Right To Request’ Law To Care For Loved Ones

San Franciscans can now request flexible or predictable work schedules from employers without fear of job loss or retaliation

San Francisco, CA—In a ceremony today with community allies at San Francisco City Hall, Mayor Ed Lee signed one of the nation’s first Family Friendly Workplace Ordinances into law. The new measure, sponsored by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, will improve flexibility and job security for working parents and caregivers in San Francisco by providing employees with the “right to request” flexible or predictable work arrangements so that they may attend to parental or caregiver duties. The new law will also prohibit discrimination against individuals on the basis of their caregiver status, and will bar employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under this law.

“In recent years, it has become more difficult for families to balance caregiving and work in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Chiu. “For various reasons, many working people in this city have to provide primary care for their children, elderly parents or ill relatives. Now they will have a way to responsibly plan for their family care, without risking the loss of their income. This will benefit our businesses, families and communities.”

San Francisco is the first city in the United States to enact a “right to request” flexibility law. Earlier this summer, the state of Vermont passed similar legislation. Similar laws have been enacted in other countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. In those countries, research has shown the success of these laws from the perspectives of both employers and employees. A similar law has been repeatedly proposed in the United States Congress but has not yet passed.

“Family members with caregiving responsibilities at home have a difficult but important job, which has to take place on top of their normal workday,” said Ann O’Leary, Vice President and Director of the Children & Families program at Next Generation. “Families shouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs for trying to do the right thing for their families and our communities. This law will go a long way toward ensuring a more secure, family-friendly workplace for San Francisco.”

Julia Parish, Project Attorney at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, said, "Through our Work & Family helpline, we hear from thousands of workers each year struggling to care for loved ones while keeping their jobs.  Low-wage workers especially fear retaliation from their employers even for asking for small changes.  The Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance will protect employees who request flexibility and encourage employers to work together with employees to find solutions."

Leah Pimental, a mother from Bayview and President of the local Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, notes that legislation like this is important in a city notoriously difficult for parents with children. “We have the smallest percentage of families with young children in the country,” she said. “We need to start passing family friendly legislation and building the voice of parents and caregivers who are also workers.”

The measure will benefit workers across the economic spectrum, since low-wage and higher-wage workers alike face the challenge of juggling caregiver responsibilities with demanding work schedules. Supervisor Chiu is also announcing plans to start a “Predictable Scheduling Task Force” engaging unions, worker centers, businesses and work family advocates in promoting flexible solutions for hourly workers.

"Flexible working arrangements should not be the privilege of those that work in high-status jobs,” said Hina Shah, Co-Director of the Women's Employment Rights Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law. “This ordinance and the work on predictable schedules will allow all workers who have caregiving responsibilities the protection necessary to request and negotiate flexible working arrangements.”

Next Generation played a key role in advising Supervisor Chiu on the development of the ordinance, and providing key guidance on how to construct the policy to best support workers across the income-spectrum so that all San Franciscans could benefit from needed family friendly workplace protections.

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About Next Generation

Next Generation promotes solutions to two of the biggest challenges confronting the next generation of Americans:  The risk of dangerous climate change, and the threat of diminished prospects for children and families. Through the use of non-partisan research, policy development, and strategic communications, we identify strategies that help deploy clean, advanced energy technologies; we also work to ensure a level playing field from which today’s kids can build a brighter future.

Learn more at www.thenextgeneration.org, www.facebook.com/thenextgeneration.org and on Twitter @nextgen_USA.

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