Is your business protecting itself and your employees with an employee handbook? Any San Francisco-based business needs a well-designed handbook that’s drafted with the expertise of a San Francisco employment lawyer. We’ll help you understand the importance of a handbook and what essential elements must be included.
Key Components of an Employee Handbook
Any employee handbook should include the following.
- Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies: Policies covering the different types of discrimination and harassment with statements that it’s not tolerated.
- At-Will Employment Disclaimer: A notice that California follows at-will employment and that a position can be terminated at any point for no specific reason and without warning as long as the reason isn’t illegal or includes protected classes, which must be outlined in the employee handbook.
- Confidentiality and Ownership of Intellectual Property: If any part of an employee’s job includes information that is confidential or employees create intellectual property for the company, those policies must be carefully outlined to explain what must remain confidential and who owns the property if an employee is laid off or quits.
- Employee Benefits and Leave of Absence Options: A detailed listing of the benefits package needs to be shared, and this includes sick, personal, and vacation time, retirement plans, health and dental insurance, and other insurances like vision, life, short-term disability, family leave, etc.
- Employee Conduct and Performance Expectations: Lay out how employees are expected to dress, making sure there are no violations if someone’s religion or culture requires certain components. Cover things like the use of cellphones and the internet for personal use, when and if you complete performance evaluations, and how employees are expected to behave within the workplace.
- Hourly Wages and Salary Information: Provide information on wages and overtime, but make sure you’re following San Francisco’s minimum wage laws as they differ from California’s minimum wage.
- Resolution Procedures for Disputes and Grievances: If there are disputes or grievances, outline how employees report problems, making sure the wording is clear, and provide options if an employee is experiencing problems with the party they should report disputes and grievances to, i.e. they’re supposed to go to their supervisor but the supervisor is the harasser.
Regulations and Laws Specific to San Francisco Employers
The City of San Francisco has a list of additional employment laws and regulations that are specific to the city. The citywide labor laws include the following.
Displaced Worker Protections Ordinance
Certain contractors and subcontractors with terminated contracts must retain workers for at least 90 days and inform employees of the contract’s termination.
Fair Chance Ordinance (FCO)
In San Francisco, employers with five or more employees cannot ask applicants about arrest or conviction records until they’ve been offered a job. Businesses must make sure job ads and postings make it clear that they will consider qualified applicants with arrest records or convictions for the position following FCO rules.
Family-Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO)
San Francisco’s FFWO provides qualifying employees the right to request flexible work arrangements to help with caregiving for a child, older adult, or person with a serious health condition. Employers must have 20 or more employees, and employees must work within San Francisco or remotely with a San Francisco office. Employees must work a minimum of eight hours a week and be employed for at least six months.
Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinance
Retailers with at least 40 stores around the world and 20 or more workers in San Francisco, including contractors for janitorial and security services, must offer more hours to part-time employees before hiring new staff or contractors.
If a retailer sells to another company, the new owner must retain all eligible employees for at least 90 days after the transfer of business, as long as those employees were with the former owner for at least six months.
Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO)
Most San Francisco employers need to meet the quarterly Employer Spending Requirement and provide health care coverage for employees who have worked for the company of 20 or more workers (worldwide) or 50 or more workers (non-profit) for at least 90 days and work at least eight hours per week. There is an exception for confidential, managerial, or supervisory employees earning more than $121,372 annually, or $58.35 per hour.
If a company is required to meet the rules of the HCSO, the company must keep records proving compliance. In addition, a company needs to put up an HCSO poster that details the year’s required healthcare spending rate, which in 2024 is:
- $2.34 per hour for workplaces with 20 to 99 employees around the world or 50 to 99 for non-profits
- $3.51 per hour for companies with 100 or more employees
Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance
San Francisco passed the Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance in 2017. By law, San Francisco employers must provide employees with a private area and breaks for lactation. Employers need to make it clear how employees can request lactation accommodations.
Military Leave Pay Protection Act (MLPPA)
San Francisco employers with 100 or more workers must provide up to 30 days of paid leave for military members. Employees receive the difference in pay between their gross military pay and the gross pay they would have received from their employer based on a regular work schedule.
Minimum Wage Ordinance
California has its own minimum wage, but San Francisco’s is higher. Employees need to meet the minimum wage of $18.07 per hour, effective July 1, 2023. This wage rate applies to part-time and temporary employees, too.
Government-supported employees might have a lower rate of $15.98 per hour. Still, only a small number meet this rule and are:
- Under the age of 18 and in an apprenticeship or training program that’s subsidized by the government
- Over the age of 55 and employed by a non-profit corporation providing social welfare services to people over the age of 55
Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO)
Employers in San Francisco must provide paid parental leave to qualifying employees. Those employees must have worked for the employer for a minimum of 180 days, work at least eight hours a week in San Francisco, and work at least 40% of the time in San Francisco.
The PPLO requires employers to include information on PPLO in the employee handbook and provide a form to any worker who notifies their supervisor that they’re going to become a parent. The amount of paid compensation is a calculation of California Paid Family Leave benefits plus PPL benefits required in San Francisco.
Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
San Francisco employers must provide paid sick leave to all employees, including part-time and temporary workers, who work in San Francisco. Workers receive one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers who have 10 or more employees can cap the sick time balance at 72 hours, while employers with nine or fewer employees can cap the sick time balance at 40 hours.
Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance
This rule only comes into play when there is a public health emergency like COVID-19. If there is another public health emergency, employers with 100 or more workers must provide up to 80 hours of paid leave during the health emergency if a worker cannot work (in person or remotely) due to illness, care of a sick family member, quarantine requirements, or in the event of an air quality emergency the worker works outdoors and is vulnerable to poor air quality.
Salary History Ordinance
Employers, including San Francisco contractors and subcontractors, cannot consider an applicant’s past or current salary when deciding what pay to offer or whether to hire. Employers cannot ask an applicant what they were making or disclose the former or current employee’s salary without permission, with the exception that the salary history is already publicly available. This is in addition to California’s AB-168, which prohibits asking applicants about their past or current salaries.
Partner With a San Francisco Employment Lawyer
You need an employee handbook that contains clear, concise language to ensure employees understand the terms and conditions. You also need to make sure the handbook is reviewed periodically and changed to ensure you’re meeting the current laws.
A San Francisco employment lawyer knows the laws, even if there are upcoming changes, and the wording and rules listed within meet applicable state and local laws. You never have to worry about having made a mistake that can put your business at risk.
Shegerian Conniff is here to help you create an employee handbook that’s fair to everyone and meets all legal requirements on a state and city level. If you have a handbook already, we can go over it and make sure there are no inaccuracies. Reach us online or by phone and we’ll help draft a handbook that’s equitable and protects your business.