12B Equal Benefits Program
Why 12B Equal Benefits?
Chapter 12B of the San Francisco Administrative Code, the groundbreaking law known as the Equal Benefits Ordinance, requires companies that enter into contracts with the City and County of San Francisco to administer benefits equally to employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses, and to the spouses and domestic partners of such employees. San Francisco’s law was the first Equal Benefits Ordinance in the United States. Numerous other jurisdictions subsequently adopted Equal Benefits Ordinances. The Equal Benefits Ordinance demonstrates the City and County of San Francisco’s commitment to:
- equal pay for equal work regardless of marital or domestic partner status, and
- fairness in the City’s contracting process.
Equal Pay for Equal Work
Employer benefits can amount to 30% of an employee’s total compensation, yet many benefit policies only extend eligibility to an employee’s spouse and children. Consequently, employees with a domestic partner are forced to obtain an individual insurance plan for their loved ones. Individual plans are not as valuable as group coverage because they typically cost more and provide fewer benefits. These restrictive eligibility policies extend to internal company benefits such as bereavement leave. The City does not sanction:
- discrimination based upon domestic partner status, or
- coercing employees to marry to qualify for benefits.
In 1996, a collaboration of community groups and San Francisco City government produced an unprecedented response to the issue of discrimination in employment faced by people in domestic partnerships. After working closely with interested community groups and receiving public testimony, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law to address one aspect of this discrimination on November 4, 1996. This law, which amended the City’s Nondiscrimination in Contracts Ordinances (Chapters 12B and 12C of the Administrative Code), prohibits the City from entering into contracts or leases with any business that discriminates between employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners with respect to any benefits they provide. On December 8, 1996, Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. signed these amendments into law. The implementation and monitoring of the Ordinance was entrusted initially to the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Effective June 28th, 2012, the administrative tasks associated with the Equal Benefits Ordinance were transferred to the newly-formed Contract Monitoring Division.
Post Same-Sex Marriage Legalization
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court guaranteed the right to marriage to same-sex couples. Since enactment, some have questioned the value of continuing the Equal Benefits Ordinance because of the inaccurate perception that it only serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer communities. However, the vast majority of registered domestic partners are part of a different-sex couple. It is important to note that the definition of domestic partner under the Equal Benefits program includes both same-sex and different-sex couples. Domestic partnerships offer couples and their families the same access to benefits as those who choose the option to marry.
Families come in many configurations and there are various reasons for couples to choose domestic partnership over marriage such as:
- loss of Social Security benefits,
- loss of medical benefits,
- avoidance of incurred debt,
- objections to the religious nature of marriage, and
- personal choice.
The City and County of San Francisco does not support forcing people to conform to a narrow definition of family in order to qualify for employee benefits.
The Equal Benefits amendments to Chapter 12B of the San Francisco Administrative Code went into effect on June 1, 1997. Since then, more than 23,000 businesses have achieved compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance. These businesses employ a pool of over 5.7 million people nationwide. The advantages of the Chapter 12B Equal Benefits Ordinance extend beyond this group to the numerous dependents who participate in domestic partner benefits.
Among 12B-compliant companies are:
- SARA JOHANNA FRIEDMAN
- I B M CORP
- J P MORGAN CHASE BANK NA
- COMCAST CABLE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT
- SECURITAS SECURITY SERVICES USA INC
- DELOITTE CONSULTING LLP
- T-MOBILE USA INC
- U R S CORPORATION
- ACCENTURE LLP
- VERIZON WIRELESS
- UNITED AIRLINES INC
The Equal Benefits Ordinance remains a vital expression of San Francisco’s deep commitment to equal pay for equal work for contractors’ employees and the City’s own employees.
Contract Monitoring Division
Equal Benefits Unit
1155 Market Street, 4th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103