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Remote Work Policies and Working Parents: What Counts As Discrimination?

In the evolving landscape of employment, remote work has emerged as a crucial aspect, particularly for working parents. As a California employment attorney, it is vital to understand and convey the legalities surrounding remote work policies. This includes ensuring equal access to remote work for employees regardless of their gender or parental status. Moreover, specific policies in San Francisco have set precedents regarding remote work for caregivers, which are essential for both employers and employees to understand.

Your Right to Equal Access to Remote Work in California

Under California law, employers are required to provide equal employment opportunities to all employees. This includes access to remote work options. Discrimination based on gender or parental status is prohibited under both federal and state laws, such as the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

Employers must ensure that remote work policies do not favor one gender over another. For example, assuming that mothers are more in need of remote work than fathers can be a form of gender discrimination.

Similarly, providing remote options only to parents and not to non-parents, or vice versa, can lead to gender and discrimination claims. Policies should be structured to offer equal opportunities to all employees, regardless of their parental status. Failing to do so can violate employees’ rights and give them grounds for legal action. 

San Francisco’s Policies on Remote Work for Caregivers

While California laws are good, many municipalities offer even better protections for working parents. For example, San Francisco has been at the forefront of addressing the needs of working caregivers through its remote policies. The city’s Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance (FFWO) is a groundbreaking law designed to provide employees in San Francisco with the right to request flexible or predictable working arrangements to assist with caregiving responsibilities. 

The FFWO applies to employers in San Francisco with 20 or more employees. It is designed to assist employees who are caregivers. This includes care for a child, a parent over the age of 65, or a person with a serious health condition in a family relationship with the employee. 

Eligible employees have the right to request flexible or predictable working arrangements. These can include changes in the number of hours they work, the times they work, where they work (such as remote work), and the assignment of work. The request must be made in writing and should clearly state the arrangement sought and the reason for the request.

Employers are required to consider these requests seriously. After receiving a request, an employer has 21 days to meet with the employee to discuss the request. Within a further 21 days after this meeting, the employer must respond in writing. If the employer denies the request, they must explain the business reasons for the denial and provide a notice of the employee’s right to request reconsideration.

In addition, the FFWO includes protections against retaliation. Employers cannot take adverse employment actions against an employee for making a request under the ordinance. Employers who violate the ordinance may face legal consequences, including penalties and requirements to take corrective actions.

The FFWO represents a significant step towards creating a more family-friendly work environment. It acknowledges the challenges faced by working caregivers and seeks to provide them with the flexibility they need to manage both their professional and personal responsibilities effectively.

What to Do If Your Right to Remote Work Access Is Violated

Despite state, federal, and municipal laws, employers may still discriminate against parents and bar them from the remote opportunities offered to their colleagues. If you believe your right to a flexible work arrangement has been violated, here’s what you can do:

  • Try Internal Company Resolution: If possible, you should attempt to resolve the issue internally. This could involve discussing the concern with a supervisor or the human resources department. Sometimes, misunderstandings or miscommunications can be resolved through internal processes.
  • Document the Situation: It is important to document all relevant communications and events. This includes keeping copies of the request for flexible working arrangements, any responses from the employer, and any other related correspondence or documents.
  • Contact the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE): If internal resolution does not work, you can file a complaint with the OLSE. The OLSE is responsible for enforcing the FFWO and can investigate claims of violations. The complaint should include all pertinent details, such as the nature of the request, the employer’s response, and any evidence of how the FFWO was violated.
  • Seek Legal Advice: It may be necessary to seek advice from an attorney specializing in employment law. An attorney can guide the rights and options available under the FFWO and assist in navigating the legal process.
  • Mediation or Legal Action: In some cases, mediation might be a viable option to reach a resolution. If the issue cannot be resolved through mediation or other means, legal action may be necessary. An attorney can help file a lawsuit against the employer for violations of the FFWO.

Remember, each situation is unique, and the best course of action may vary depending on the specific circumstances. Legal advice from a qualified professional is often critical in these situations to ensure that your rights as a working parent are adequately protected and pursued.

Talk to the Skilled Parental Discrimination Lawyers at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP

In San Francisco, the FFWO provides a framework for supporting caregivers, setting an example for other cities and states. Employers must be diligent in providing equal access to remote work opportunities avoiding discrimination based on gender or parental status. Laws like the FFWO also mean that if your employer is violating your legal rights, you have the right to take action. The experienced employment law attorneys at Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP can help. We encourage you to talk to our professional team today to learn more about your options and take the first steps toward holding your employer accountable for violating your rights.

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