Expansion of San Francisco's Paid Parental Leave
The new year brought to San Francisco the most comprehensive parental leave law offered anywhere in the country. Under the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO), when covered employees use California paid family leave (PFL) benefits for new child bonding - bonding with a child during the first year after birth or placement through foster care or adoption - covered employers must pay supplemental compensation.
The PPLO became effective on January 1, 2017, for employers with 50 or more employees. San Francisco employers with a smaller headcount will soon follow suit: effective July 1, 2017, the PPLO will apply to employers with 35 or more employees, and on January 1, 2018, to employers with 20 or more employees.
While the California PFL program currently pays employees 55 percent of their wages, up to a maximum weekly benefit of $1,173, for a six-week period, PPLO requires employers to pay supplemental compensation up to a maximum of $980 per week.
Who is eligible?
The employee must work at the employer for at least 180 days. The employee can be full-time, part-time, or temporary, but not an independent contractor. The employee has to work a minimum of 8 hours per week in San Francisco, with 40 percent of his or her total work hours in San Francisco. All new parents who meet these conditions are eligible for PPLO benefits.
Can employers require employees to use paid time off?
The PPLO allows employers to require employees to use up to two weeks of accrued paid time off to help satisfy the employers' obligation to pay supplemental compensation during the leave period. This would be counted toward the employers' total six-week obligation to provide supplemental compensation.
What if the employer already has a paid parental leave policy?
PPLO specifies that an employer is not required to pay supplemental compensation if it has an existing policy that provides employees with at least six weeks of fully paid parental leave for new child bonding within any 12-month period.
Is there any required paperwork for the employee to submit?
To receive San Francisco supplemental compensation, an employee must sign a form created by San Francisco's Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE).
The form requires the employee to agree to reimburse supplemental compensation received, in full, if he or she voluntarily terminates employment within 90 days of the end of his or her leave period, if the employer makes a written reimbursement request. The form can be found here.
Does the six weeks paid leave have to be taken at once?
No. The employee can opt to take the six weeks all at once or intermittently over 12 months.
Is there a cap on how much supplemental compensation employees can receive?
Yes. The total amount of money an employee can receive from the state plus the employer is $2,133 per week. That means employees who earn 110,916 or less a year will receive full paid leave during those six weeks, but those who earn more than that will receive less than full paid leave.
Who may enforce the ordinance?
The OLSE may investigate any possible violations of the ordinance by an employer and bring an administrative enforcement or civil action against an employer. The City may bring a civil action in court against an employer for violations of the ordinance. A person or entity may also bring a civil action against an employer after he/she/it provides the OLSE and the City Attorney with written notice and more than 90 days have passed without the City Attorney filing suit or the OLSE providing notice of its intent to bring an administrative enforcement action or a determination that no violation has occurred.
To Boycott, or Not? How Business Owners Should React
From Fox News to United Airlines to the “Trump Effect,” consumer boycotts are trending. But when do boycotts actually work, and how should business owners react?
The rise of instant media consumption certainly parallels the rise in instant outrage over large corporations’ actions (read: anything from controversial deals to actions or comments by executives) that bleed into the social or political realm. But boycotting businesses even predates Facebook. Take Shell, for example. In 1995, Germany’s arm of Greenpeace boycotted the fuel icon after an out of commission petroleum platform made moves toward deep water disposal. The aggressive public campaign against Shell resulted in (1) Shell changing the disposal plan completely, and (2) a reduction of fuel sales in Germany by nearly 40%.
In sharp contrast, and more recently, Chik-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy’s public comments opposing same-sex marriage—and the online outcry that followed—drove the company to cease funding organizations which had previously been criticized for similarly “discriminating.” The result? Sales increased by 12%.
Considering the disparity in economic effect on large companies, what is the likely risk to small business owners confronting consumer boycotts? The reality is that even small-scale efforts to ostracize local businesses can have detrimental results on owners’ financial stability. As mentioned, social media helps spread news – reliable or not – at a lightning fast pace. Opinions that have been branded “unpopular” by a majority of Twitter users could be the kiss of death for a small supplier relying heavily both on new and varied customers or long-term clients.
Conversely, businesses may want to participate in boycotts – a la advertisers from Mercedes-Benz, Constant Contact, and others versus Bill O’Reilly and Fox News. Small companies may be in a position to voice concern by withdrawing their own business from media outlets or otherwise.
The considerations for both being boycotted or choosing to boycott are similar:
Beyond that, companies may need to decide whether to fight back, especially in situations where customers are not always right. Information travels at the speed of light, whether or not it is verified. Companies falling victim to “fake news” about their business practices could face boycotts, protests, or worse based on someone’s published false or defamatory statements.
Generally speaking, a company is not considered to have a reputation in the sense that an individual does. But statements that would impact a company’s financial soundness are typically considered defamatory under the law, and a company could potentially sue if statements would have the effect of deterring customers. (Note: this is not necessarily true if defamatory statements are directed only against an individual within the business.)
So, what steps can a business take when circuited or published information is entirely false and directly affects its ability to operate?
Key California Employment Law Cases: March 2017
This month’s key California employment law cases involve arbitration and PAGA issues.
Arbitration - Farrar v. Direct Commerce, Inc., 9 Cal. App. 5th 1257, 215 Cal. Rptr. 3d 785 (2017)
Arbitration/PAGA - Betancourt v. Prudential Overall Supply, 9 Cal. App. 5th 439 (2017)