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Employer Alert: New San Francisco Law Requires Fully Paid Parental Leave

April 5, 2016 |
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On April 5, 2016, San Francisco became the first city in the United States to mandate that employers provide fully paid parental leave.  San Francisco will be enacting this gradually and by 2018, businesses with 20 or more employees will be required to comply.

Effective January 1, 2017, San Francisco businesses with 50 or more employees will be required to offer six weeks of fully paid parental leave for employees following the birth or adoption of a child.  This applies to parents of either gender and to both full- and part-time employees.  To be eligible, employees will need to have been employed by that employer for at least 180 days, work 8 or more hours per week, and spend at least 40% of their work week within San Francisco city boundaries.  If an employee leaves his or her employment within 90 days of returning from leave, the employee must repay the benefit.  Employees may also be required to use up all vacation days before assuming paid leave.

Currently, California pays 55% of an employee’s wages when he or she goes on leave after the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member through the state’s Paid Family Leave program. The new law will require employers to fill in the gap by paying the remaining 45% of an employee’s salary while he or she is on this parental leave.  While California’s disability program does not guarantee that an employee can return to his or her job after the leave has ended, the San Francisco law makes it illegal to fire an employee after taking parental leave.

If your business offers more than the benefits provided, you are exempt from this requirement.  The law provides that if pending California state legislation increasing the amount the state pays from the Paid Family Leave program, is approved, San Francisco’s requirement will decrease accordingly. We will continue to keep you updated as to the status of the state’s pending legislation.

The law will be enacted in gradual phases for smaller businesses.  So while the requirement for employers with 50 or more employees takes effect January 1, 2017, smaller business compliance begins 6 months later.  Starting July 1, 2017, businesses with 35 to 49 employees must comply.  By January 1, 2018, all small employers with 20 or more employees will be required to comply.  Employers with less than 20 employees will be exempt.  The new law does not apply to the federal, state or other municipal governments.

If you have questions about how this development impacts your business, please call our main number, 408-286-5800 or email one of Berliner Cohen LLP’s employment attorneys.

Christine H. Long,

Susan E. Bishop,

Eileen P. Kennedy,

Jennifer Y. Leung,


©2016 Berliner Cohen, LLP. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship and no attorney-client relationship is created through your use of the Berliner Site or your receipt of the materials.

Berliner Cohen LLP’s experienced employment law attorneys advise and represent employers and managers on a full range of legal issues affecting the workplace, including harassment and discrimination, unfair competition and trade secrets, wrongful discharge, wage and hour issues, and labor disputes. Berliner Cohen LLP also is skilled in representing employers in both State and Federal Class Action cases. For almost fifty years, Berliner Cohen LLP, founded and headquartered in San Jose, California, has been one of the most highly-respected full-service business law firms in the region. Berliner Cohen possesses the specialized expertise required to serve the business and regulatory needs of a diverse clientele, which includes publicly-traded corporations and privately-held entities across various sectors, public agencies and governmental entities, leading real estate developers, owners, operators, managers and investors, and banking and other financial institutions. Berliner Cohen also meets the growing demands of the San Joaquin Valley with its Merced and Modesto offices.