This article is Part 1 of a two-part series providing an overview of laws affecting San Francisco employers.

San Francisco.  The Bay’s cold waters and strong currents probably are easier to navigate than the local employment laws.  In this two-part article, we summarize the ordinances employers need to know when doing business in San Francisco.   Part 1 addresses the San Francisco ordinances applicable to all employers.

Minimum Wage

The California statewide minimum wage is $11.00 per hour, which will gradually increase to $15.00 and then higher.  But San Francisco has its own minimum wage. As of July 1, 2018, employees who work two or more hours per week in San Francisco must be paid at least $15.00 per hour for their work performed there. That minimum will increase annually based on an inflation index.  

Paid Sick Leave

San Francisco’s sick leave ordinance is similar to the state’s (which was modeled after San Francisco’s).  So, the sick leave obligations mainly overlap. Employees who work in San Francisco for 56 or more hours per year accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.  New employees begin to accrue paid sick leave immediately, and may begin using it on their 90th day of employment.  Employees may carry over unused leave from year to year, although employers with 10 or more employees may cap an employee’s paid sick leave accrual at 72 hours.

Employees may use paid sick leave for their own illness, injury, bone marrow or organ donation, or medical care, or for that of a covered family member, or for certain purposes when an employee is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  Employers may require reasonable notification of a foreseeable absence.  Employers should not require documentation to verify the employee or family member was ill or injured. 

In addition to recordkeeping and posting requirements, employers must provide employees with a written notice of the accrued amount of paid sick leave available. 

Salary History

As is the case with state law, employers may not inquire about or consider the past or current salary of any person applying for a job to be performed in San Francisco. San Francisco employers may not release a current or former employee’s salary history to a prospective employer without the employee’s written authorization.

Lactation in the Workplace

Nursing mothers working in San Francisco for 56 or more hours per year are entitled to certain protections.  Employers must provide a reasonable amount of break time for a covered employee to express breast milk.  Lactation breaks may run concurrently with paid rest breaks; they are otherwise unpaid. 

Employers must provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for lactation breaks in close proximity to the employee’s work area.  The location must be safe and clean, with access to electricity, a place to sit, and a surface to place a pump and personal items.  Employees must also have access to a refrigerator and a sink with running water in close proximity to their work area.

Employers must implement and distribute a written Lactation Accommodation Policy, and include the policy in their employee handbooks.  Employers must respond to an employee’s request for a lactation accommodation in writing or by email.  Employers may not require documentation regarding an employee’s need for a lactation accommodation.  Employers must retain records related to accommodation requests for three years. 

Non-interference in Personal Relationships

San Francisco employers may not forbid or prevent employees from “engaging or participating in personal relationships, organization, activities, or otherwise restricting their freedom of association,” unless the relationship, organization, or activity has a “direct and actual impact on the employee’s ability to perform their assigned responsibilities.”  The law does not prohibit rules or policies disallowing conflicts of interest.

Drug Testing Regulations

San Francisco employers must adopt a “Drug Free Workplace Policy” and display education information regarding the adverse effects of illegal drug use and the availability of programs to assist with substance abuse issues.  Employers may drug test employees only in narrow circumstances, such as when the employer has “reasonable grounds to believe” that an employee is impaired on the job and the impairment presents a “clear and present danger” to the employee, another employee, or the public.  Employers must provide the employee an opportunity to rebut or explain positive test results.  The drug testing regulations do not prohibit drug testing that is required by federal or state law.

More Information, Notices and Records

Many of the San Francisco employment law ordinances impose record-keeping requirements, which sometimes are longer than state law requires.   The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement publishes interpretations of the ordinances, FAQ’s and forms, as well as the many notice postings required to be posted and distributed.  On that subject, the required notices may have to be provided in employees’ native language.

For more details and information about the San Francisco ordinances discussed above, visit www.sfgov.org/olse.  Employers with locations in multiple Bay Area cities, including Oakland, Emeryville, and Berkeley, should visit these jurisdictions’ websites.

Part 2 of this article will be printed next time.

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