San Francisco City Council Committee Passes Amendments For Employment Bill

Screenshot from March 18's Public Safety and Neighborhood Services virtual special meeting

Jamaica Kalika, Howard University News Service

San Francisco’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee make progress into passing amendments to the Police Code in order to better support workers and businesses

Thursday, March 18th’s special meeting of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services committee had a single item on the agenda: amending “Police Code – Right to Reemployment Following Layoff due to COVID-19 Pandemic” by narrowing rehiring requirements and tailoring the ordinance to offer certain industries more support.

This policy, sponsored by Supervisor Gordon Mar, “creates a right to reemployment for certain employees laid-off due to the COVID-19 pandemic if their employer seeks to fill the same position previously held by the laid-off employee, or a substantially similar position, and to reasonably accommodate employees who cannot work because of a family care hardship.”

The meeting covered two amendments to the policy based on recent feedback from the San Francisco Labor Council, Chamber of Commerce, and other stakeholders.

The first, is tailoring the applicability of this ordinance by industry, depending on its needs. As a result, this ordinance will give a lot of support to the restaurant industry, which has been especially hard hit by the pandemic.

The second amendment will narrow rehiring requirements to only include positions with comparable job duties, pay/benefits, and working conditions or positions the worker has previously been employed in. This removes the requirement to offer reemployment for positions an eligible worker would be qualified for or that require training. When introducing these amendments Mar acknowledged things have changed. “We understand businesses have to adapt to our new normal and their hiring does too,” Mar said.

Ultimately, these amendments give businesses more flexibility while also retaining worker protections.

This was the third time this item had been brought before this specific committee and the 11th time voting on this policy in some form.

Within the eight months this policy has been in effect this is the farthest it’s gotten. First assigned to the committee on July 28th, 2020 this ordinance has gone through a lot of revision.

“The legislative process of this ordinance has been long, but it has also been fruitful. Leading to a final product that strikes a careful balance between supporting workers and businesses. We can and must do both,” Mar said.

Throughout the meeting were mentions of this being a long, difficult decision with constant tradeoffs and back and forths between protecting workers and giving more leniency to businesses. Mar credited the dialogue between employer and labor groups for making progress on this policy.

Chhavi Sahni was involved in the process. She is the director of public policy at the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Attending the meeting in support of the amendments she has said changing the industry threshold so that the legislation can apply to a wider variety of restaurant operators has been very helpful to restaurants here in San Francisco. “We appreciate Supervisor Mar and his legislative aid Edward Wright for taking the time to listen to our concerns and introducing these amendments to directly address those concerns, like changing the restaurant threshold so that this legislation applies to restaurant operators with 200 or more employees per location.”

This policy is now ready for the next step of legislation. The committee voted two-to-one on sending the item to the full Board of Supervisors as a committee report with positive recommendations for consideration next meeting.