Mesothelioma families often find themselves caught in a bind between caregiving needs and the demands of the workplace. The household member who is not afflicted with mesothelioma, often the wife whose husband developed mesothelioma from workplace exposure to asbestos, takes on the role of caregiver. The caregiver provides meals, medication management, symptom monitoring and personal care help at home for the mesothelioma patient. They may also drive the patient to and from medical appointments and lend support and another pair of ears during doctor visits. But at the same time, especially if medical bills not covered by insurance are mounting, the healthy spouse also needs to hold down a job. To say that it is difficult to juggle caregiver duties with employee duties is an understatement – as anyone who’s ever done it can attest.
Now a new law in San Francisco seeks to make life a little easier for workers who are also caregivers whether for young children, elderly relatives or family member suffering from a chronic illness like mesothelioma.
Called the Family-Friendly Workplace Ordinance, the new law was unanimously supported by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors 11 – 0 and approved by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee in October.
Starting on January 1, the new law gives workers who have personal caregiving obligations the right to request changes to their working conditions in order to meet these obligations.
The law requires employers with 20 or more employees working in San Francisco to consider requests for “flexible or predictable working arrangements to assist with care giving responsibilities.” The law also protects employees from any retaliation based on their caregiver status.
An analysis of the new law in an online newsletter focused on women’s issues suggests the provision for a predictable schedule may be the most family-friendly provision offered; especially for low-wage workers.
“Without consistent schedules, workers might struggle to find child care or arrange transportation and could have difficulty making ends meet as their pay fluctuates from week to week. That’s why it’s encouraging that San Francisco’s law allows workers to request predictable scheduling, too,” the analysis states.
An employer still retains the right to refuse the employee’s requests for flexible or predictable work schedule under the new ordinance. But the law, similar to one just passed by the state of Vermont and modeled on family-friendly laws in other countries, can be viewed as a starting step in the right direction. Attempts to introduce similar laws at the national level in the US have not fared well in Congress. But it is hoped that if enough cities and states enact laws for themselves, a federal law may become more likely to pass.