Proposition I - Paid Parental Leave

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the November 2002 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

This Charter amendment would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for City employees at the time of the birth of a child or placement through adoption or foster care. While existing local, state and federal laws entitle employees to take unpaid leave, many lack the resources to take advantage of such a leave. This measure would provide compensation for up to 12 weeks leave, or if the employee were eligible, for an additional four weeks under state disability for pregnancy, for a total of 16 weeks.

SPUR's analysis

This measure would allow eligible employees to receive supplementary compensation, with eligibility defined as working a minimum of 20 hours per week with a minimum of six months service or anyone who has worked a minimum of 1040 hours in the previous year, i.e., half-time. Any leave beyond that mandated by law would have to be approved by the employee's appointing officer.

Supplemental compensation for approved leave would be available only after all other accrued paid leave were exhausted, and would be reduced by any amount paid by any other government agency. There would be a maximum of 12 weeks' compensation under this measure except that an employee taking Temporary Pregnancy Disability Leave would have an additional four weeks' leave.

During any leave made available through this measure, employees would also have all contributions for retirement and health benefits continued. In case an employee failed to return to work and stay for at least six months, the supplementary compensation would have to be repaid with interest. It is estimated that about 600 city employees would use the benefit in a year, at a cost of $4-5 million per year.


Those who support Proposition I state:

  • This Charter amendment would assist city employees in creating strong bonds with their children, important for the future health of a child. It would put San Francisco "out in front" of supporting families.
  • This benefit would increase employee morale and retention. While there would be a loss of productivity, that would occur if an employee took the unpaid leave which federal law entitles her.


Those who oppose Proposition I state:

  • This is an expensive measure that lacks any provision for how the City would be able to pay the costs. As many as 20% of city employees are married to another City employee, and each parent would be eligible for the paid leave, doubling the cost to the City in those cases.
  • If this proposition is adopted would be a part of the Charter, subject only to a future Charter amendment. This kind of benefit belongs at the bargaining table, not in the Charter.
  • While the Charter amendment stipulates that paid parental leave would only be available after all other accrued leave was exhausted, there is no restriction on an employee's using up all such leave prior to the arrival of a child.

It is true that San Francisco needs to do more to be a child-friendly place. But the population of children will be affected by other things--chiefly the cost of housing and the quality of the schools--not richer benefits for a small number of City employees. This measure does not grow out of studies or even out of popular demand. It was placed on the ballot at the whim of a Supervisor. This kind of detailed employee benefit is something that has costs and benefits; it needs to be weighed against other potential job related costs and benefits. It absolutely should not be put into the City Charter.

SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Proposition I.