San Francisco Passes the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance

California is leading the way when it comes to worker’s rights. In addition to passing the new minimum wage hike, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to approve paid parental leave for new parents. That includes same sex couples, and anyone who either bears or adopts a child.

On April 12, 2016, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that will provide six weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child at 100% of the employee’s rate of pay. While California already provides for six weeks of parental leave through its Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) program, this program only paid up to 55% of the covered employee’s rate of pay. San Francisco’s new ordinance will require covered employers to contribute the remaining 45% of the employee’s wages while that employee is on leave so that the employee receives his or her full pay (up to a total of $2,053 per week). In order to comply, employers must pay a supplemental compensation that will cover the remaining amount between how much the state is paying and the employee’s regular weekly compensation. In order to calculate the regular weekly compensation amount under the PFL employers need to divide the state’s weekly benefit figure by the percentage rate of the wages being replaced by the PFL program.

The new San Francisco ordinance will go into effect for employers with 50 or more employees (regardless of where the employees are located) on January 1, 2017. Employers with 35 or more employees and 20 or more employees will see the ordinance go into effect July 1, 2017 and January 1, 2018, respectively. Employers must post a notice explaining the paid parental leave program in a conspicuous place in any and all languages that at least 5% of the languages spoken by the workforce at the workplace.

For an employee to be eligible under the new ordinance, the employee must: (1) be employed for at least 180 days prior to the start of the leave; (2) work at least 8 hours per week in San Francisco; (3) work at least 40% of their weekly hours in San Francisco; and (4) be eligible for California Paid Family Leave for baby bonding.

Under the new program, employers may require their employees to use up to two weeks of vacation before supplemental compensation must be paid. If an employee refuses to do so, the employer may be relieved of its obligation to provide supplemental compensation to that employee.

Although this new ordinance is only applicable to San Francisco employees, California Paid Family Leave is available to any eligible employee in the state. (To find out if you’re eligible for California Paid Family Leave, contact the California Employment Development Department.)

While an employee’s job is not protected while out on leave under either the San Francisco ordinance or the California Paid Family Leave program, an employee may also be eligible for job-protected leave through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), or the Pregnancy Disability Leave (“PDL”) law.

The governmental office designated to enforce compliance of the paid parental leave program is the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE). The OLSE has the authority to not only enforce the program but has the ability to order any other appropriate relied including monetary penalties. Penalties may be the greater of $250 or three times the amount withheld. The OLSE can also levy a penalty of $50 per day to each employee.

Additionally, while the employee’s job may not be protected, an employer may not discriminate or retaliate against, or take an adverse employment action against an employee for exercising his or her rights under these laws. If you feel that you have been denied the right to take Paid Family Leave, or had an employer retaliate or discriminate against you, or terminate you for exercising your rights to take such leave, it would be in your best interest to contact Aegis Law Firm at (949) 379-6250 immediately so an attorney may review your case and advise you on your options.