How to Comply

How to comply with Chapter 12B Equal Benefits Ordinance

 

  1. What is the Equal Benefits Ordinance contracting requirement?
  2. Does the Equal Benefits Ordinance apply to me?
  3. How do I comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?
  4. How do I answer Question 2.C on the Chapter 12B Declaration to show that benefits are equal?
  5. What can I expect from an audit?
  6. Tips for Success
  7. Common Questions
  8. Important City and County of San Francisco Contacts

 

1. What is the Equal Benefits Ordinance contracting requirement?

Chapter 12B of the San Francisco Administrative Code, also known as the Equal Benefits Ordinance, requires businesses entering into contracts or property contracts with the City and County of San Francisco to take the following steps.

  1. Provide the same benefits to employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses, and to the spouses and domestic partners of such employees.
  2. Use a compliant definition of domestic partners in all policies:

Domestic partners are defined as couples who are registered with any state or local government domestic partner registry. This applies to both same-sex and different-sex couples. Any requirements for proof of relationship and waiting periods are applied equally to domestic partnerships and marriages. Domestic partner registry certificates are accepted as fully equivalent to marriage certificates.

  1. Confirm the business does not discriminate against its employees, employees of the city, or members of the public based on real or perceived membership in the following protected categories: Race, Color, Creed, Religion, National Origin, Ancestry, Age, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity (e.g. transgender status), Domestic Partner status, Marital status, Disability, AIDS/HIV status, Height, Weight.

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2. Does the Equal Benefits Ordinance apply to me?

The Ordinance applies to all businesses that directly enter into a contract or lease with the City and County of San Francisco. Examples of affected transactions include: public works improvements, franchises, concessions, leases of city property, grants, and acquisitions of services or supplies to be purchased at the expense of the city.

  1. Businesses with No Employees: Compliance is still required for businesses with no employees or benefits. Compliance is also required of sole proprietors. Formal documents that often satisfy the requirement verifying an entity has zero employees include Form 1040 Schedule SE, Form 1040 Schedule C, and Form SS-4.
  2. Venture Partners: Joint venture partners are required to comply with the ordinance on an individual basis. Additionally, the joint venture itself must establish a separate supplier record and complete the Equal Benefits compliance process.
  3. Subcontractors: The Equal Benefits Ordinance does not require subcontractors to comply.

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3. How do I comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance? See Complete Compliance Guide here: 12B Complete Compliance Guide.pdf 

There are 2 steps to complete before you can register compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance: ensure your benefits are administered equally to employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses, and to the domestic partners and spouses of employees of your business, and register your business with the City and County of San Francisco.

  1. Confirm all benefits are offered equally to employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners and to the domestic partners and spouses of the employees.
    1. Domestic partners are defined as couples who are registered with any state or local government domestic partner registry. This applies to both same-sex and different-sex couples. Any requirements for proof of relationship and waiting periods must be applied equally to domestic partnerships and marriages. Domestic partner registry certificates must be accepted as fully equivalent to marriage certificates.
    2. Integrate equal benefit language in all written and informal policies. Your business can’t be compliant until domestic partners and their family members are included wherever spouses and their family members are referenced.
  2. Register as a bidder or supplier in the SF City Portal here: http://sfcitypartner.sfgov.org. This is required prior to starting the 12B compliance process. The following webpages will help you register:
    1. How to Log In to the SF City Partner Website
    2. How to Manage Your Bidder Account
    3. How to Manage Your Supplier Account
    4. More SF City Partner Training documents
  1. Assemble the required supporting documentation.
    1. Formal verification of business size. This is usually a tax form that indicates the number of employees.
      1. Examples include: Form 941, Form W-3, W-2 Summary, Form DE 9C, Electronic Wage Reporting (Social Security Online), San Francisco Payroll Expense Tax and Gross Receipts Tax Form, Form SS-4, and Form 990.
      2. Businesses without employees are also required to provide verification, for example, Form 1040 Schedule SE, Form 1040 Schedule C, and Form SS-4. 
      3. Confidential employee information should be redacted.
      4. If you have questions regarding the verification requirements, contact the Equal Benefits Unit at CMD.EqualBenefits@sfgov.org or 415-581-2310. 
    2. Employee Memorandum on your business letterhead that summarizes your business’ compliant domestic partner benefit and nondiscrimination policies. 12B Employee Memo Template.docx 
      1. Adapt the 12B Employee Memorandum.docx template to reflect the benefits offered by your business. The list of benefits should match the benefits you checked on the Chapter 12B Declaration. The template contains all of the necessary assurances to demonstrate compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance.
      2. Distribute the Memorandum to your employees. By submitting the Memorandum with the Chapter 12B Declaration, you attest that your policies are compliant with Chapter 12B and you have notified your employees of this fact.
      3. Do not send policy documents to the Contract Monitoring Division (CMD). Benefit policies will only be required if CMD audits of your business.
      4. Submit the online 12B Declaration here: http://sfcitypartner.sfgov.org
        Note: paper and PDF versions are not accepted.
        1. You can print a PDF of the following steps here: Submitting an Online 12B Declaration Guide: Submitting an Online 12B Declaration Guide.pdf  
        2. Follow these steps to submit a new 12B Declaration:
          1. Have the username and password you used to register ready. Tip: if you do not have a username and password yet, contact the DTIS Help Desk. at Dtis.helpdesk@sfgov.org
          2. Know the count of employees in the U.S. and what benefits your business offers.
          3. Go to the Supplier Portal at https://sfcitypartner.sfgov.org/
          4. Click the Log In button.
          5. Click the Certifications menu on the right side of the screen.
          6. Click 12B Declaration.
          7. For a new Declaration or if you have been asked to revise a previously submitted Declaration, click the Add A New Value tab.
            1. To continue working on a previous Declaration that has not been submitted yet, click Find An Existing Value, enter the Declaration #, then click the Search button.
            2. Skip to Step L, below.
          8. On the search page that appears, ensure the SetID field is set to SHARE.
          9. If the Supplier ID or Bidder ID does not automatically appear, enter the number. Tip: Use your Supplier ID if you have one. If you do not have a Supplier ID, enter your Bidder ID. (Bidder numbers start with “B”)
          10. Under Declaration Type, select Supplier if you have a Supplier ID. If you do not have a Supplier ID, select Bidder.
          11. Click the Add button.
          12. Follow the prompts to complete the 12B Declaration.
          13. Attach the required supporting documentation.
            1. Formal verification of business size. This is usually a tax form that indicates the number of employees.
              1. Examples include: Form 941, Form W-3, W-2 Summary, Form DE 9C, Electronic Wage Reporting (Social Security Online), San Francisco Payroll Expense Tax and Gross Receipts Tax Form, Form SS-4, and Form 990.
              2. Confidential employee information should be redacted.
              3. Note: businesses without employees are also required to provide verification, for example, a Form 1040 Schedule SE, Form 1040 Schedule SE, and Form SS-4. If you have questions regarding the verification requirements, contact the Equal Benefits Unit at CMD.EqualBenefits@sfgov.org or 415-581-2310. 
            2. Employee Memorandum on your business letterhead that summarizes your business' compliant domestic partner benefit and nondiscrimination policies. 12B Employee Memo Template.docx 
              1. Adapt the 12B Employee Memorandum.docx template to reflect the benefits offered by your business. The list of benefits should match the benefits you checked on the Chapter 12B Declaration. The template contains all necessary assurances to demonstrate compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance.
              2. Distribute the Memorandum to your employees. By submitting the Memorandum with your Chapter 12B Declaration you attest that your policies are compliant with Chapter 12B and you have notified your employees of this fact.
              3. Do not send policy documents to the Contract Monitoring Division (CMD). Benefit policies will only be required if CMD audits your business. 
            3. ​​At the end of the Declaration, click the following buttons in this order: Save, Print, Submit or Cancel. Tip: Write down the Declaration Number that appears at the top of the page in case you need to contact the Equal Benefits Unit.

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4. How do I answer Question 2.C on the Chapter 12B Declaration to show that all benefits are equal? See How Benefits Apply To Dependents Guide here:  How Benefits Apply to Dependents.pdf

First ensure all benefit plans and policies explicitly demonstrate equal recognition of domestic partners and spouses. Domestic partners and other family members related by domestic partnership must be included in the same places where spouses and family members related by marriage are specified. Use the guidelines below to answer Question 2.C on the Chapter 12B Declaration.

  1. Health, Dental, Vision Insurance Plans: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they can be added as dependents on the employee's insurance plan.
  2. Pension and Retirement Plans: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they have access to all beneficiary distribution options and anyone can be named as a beneficiary.
  3. Bereavement Leave Policy: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they and, if included, their family are included in the definition of immediate family for whom an employee may take leave. To be equal, all included family members must be the same for both spouses and domestic partners.
  4. Family Medical and Military Leave Policies: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are included in the definition of immediate family for whom an employee may take leave. To be equal, all included family members must be the same for both spouses and domestic partners.
  5. Parental Leave Policy: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are considered to be a parent.
  6. Employee Assistance Policy: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are considered to be an eligible dependent.
  7. Relocation and/or Travel: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are eligible for house-hunting trips and/or other relocation or travel benefits.
  8. Discounts, Facilities, Events Policies: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are eligible to participate in the employee’s benefit.
  9. Credit Union Policy: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are eligible to participate in the employee’s membership or establish an account.
  10. Child Care Policy: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they can obtain care for their child.
  11. Dependent Life Insurance: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they and/or their children are recognized as an eligible dependent.
  12. Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are eligible for training and/or survivor benefits.
  13. Accidental Death & Dismemberment Insurance: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they are eligible for training and/or survivor benefits.
  14. Other Benefits: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they can participate in the plan and/or benefit from it in some way.
  15. Union Benefits: Check Spouse and/or Domestic Partner if they have access to benefits through a collective bargaining agreement. When benefits are provided through a collective bargaining agreement, check both the Union line and all of the benefits above that are offered to union employees and/or their dependents.

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5. What can I expect from an audit? See Audit Guide here: 12B Audit Guide.pdf 

The Equal Benefits Unit audits companies to verify that benefits are offered in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 12B. If audited, you will be required to provide verification of nondiscrimination for each benefit. That may include, but is not limited to, your employee handbook, individual insurance plans, union benefits, and pension/retirement policies. All policies must meet the standards set forth in the 12B Audit Guide. Factors that could lead to an audit include, but are not limited to, company size, contract size, or a complaint filed by an employee. 

Failure to offer benefits in accordance with the Chapter 12B Equal Benefits Ordinance may result in suspension of compliance status, financial penalties, and/or the inability to contract with the City and County of San Francisco.

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6. Tips for Success

  1. Start the compliance process as early as possible. Submit the 12B Declaration in the Supplier Portal so you can complete the process before encountering a contract execution deadline.
  2. Use the complete and correct definition of domestic partner. Domestic partners are couples who are registered with any state or local government domestic partner registry. This applies to both same-sex and different-sex couples. Any requirements for proof of relationship and waiting periods must be applied equally to domestic partnerships and marriages. Domestic partner registry certificates must be accepted as fully equivalent to marriage certificates.
  3. What is a non-compliant definition?
    1. One that only includes registry with a State. Remedy: Avoid limiting registration to the locality where the employee lives or works. Allow registration with any local or State agency registry. 
    2. One that imposes requirements on domestic partners that are not required on married employees. Remedy: Remove additional requirements for domestic partners.
    3. One that requires proof of relationship, e.g., an affidavit, or waiting periods for domestic partners beyond what is required of married employees. Remedy: Recognize domestic partnership certificates as equal to marriage certificates. Similarly, if affidavits are required of domestic partners then require married employees to provide the same affidavit.
    4. One that includes eligibility requirements for domestic partners but not married employees. For example, the following are noncompliant requirements:
  • “Neither the domestic partner nor the employee has had another domestic partner in the 6-month period preceding the date of the signed Declaration of Domestic Partnership.”
  • “The domestic partner and the employee are not in their relationship solely for the purpose of obtaining insurance coverage.”
  • “The domestic partner and the employee are jointly responsible for each other's financial welfare.”
  • “The domestic partner and the employee are each other's sole life partner and intend to remain so indefinitely.”
  • “The domestic partner and the employee have shared the same residence for at least six consecutive months and continue to do so.” 

​​Remedy: Remove unequal requirements, or require the same of employees with spouses. Alternatively, your company may retain your current definition of domestic partner as long as your company also recognizes domestic partners registered with any governmental entity and allows the employee to choose which method of recognition to use.
Note: the provisions above may be required by a domestic partner registry and that would not be noncompliant. That is because domestic partners can choose to register with a registry that does not have the same requirements.

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7. Common Questions: See Common Questions Guide here:  12B Common Questions.pdf

Since 1997, more than 23,000 businesses have achieved compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance. Here are answers to some frequently-asked questions.

Q:    I submitted a 12B Declaration. How do I check my company’s status?

A:     You will receive a confirmation email when your company is assigned compliance. Compliance status is specified in your PeopleSoft account on your home page. You may also contact the Equal Benefits Unit at cmd.equalbenefits@sfgov.org or 415-581-2310 with additional status questions.

Q:    How do I register compliance with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

A:     You must submit a compliant 12B Declaration, formal verification of the employee count for your business, and a copy of the notification you will provide to employees that explains your company’s domestic partner policy. A template for the notification is available.

Q:    My business does not have any employees. Does my business need to comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

A:     Yes. You will need submit both the 12B Declaration and formal verification that explicitly states that are no employees.

Q:    My business does not have any employees or locations in San Francisco. Does my business need to comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

A:     Yes.

Q:    My business does not offer any employee benefits. Does my business need to comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

A:     Yes.

Q:    I forgot to include a benefit on my 12B Declaration. Why can’t I edit the 12B Declaration I submitted?

A:    Each submitted 12B Declaration stands alone as a legal document. If an amendment is necessary, a new Declaration must be submitted.

Q:    My business has been assigned 12B compliance. What do I do now?

A:    First, if you are a Bidder, you must be converted to a Supplier. Contact the Supplier Management Team at supplier.management@sfgov.org to request conversion. Next, notify any City department contact with whom you have been working that your business is compliant.

Q:    The name of my business changed after 12B compliance was assigned. Is my business still compliant?

A:    To maintain compliance, you must submit a new 12B Declaration and supporting documentation if there is a substantial change in your business. Examples of substantial changes include name changes, employee count changes that result in a change in benefits and tax ID changes.

Q:    I find the compliance process to be very confusing. Is there someone I can ask for help?

A:     Contact the Equal Benefits Unit at cmd.equalbenefits@sfgov.org or 415-581-2310 for assistance walking through the compliance process.

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8. Important City and County of San Francisco Contacts:

 

For passwords and account support, contact the DTIS Help Desk.

628-652-5000

dtis.helpdesk@sfgov.org

 

For general registration questions, contact the User Support Desk.

415-944-2442

sfcitypartnersupport@sfgov.org

 

For changes to your Bidder/Supplier info, contact the Supplier Management Team.

415-554-6702

supplier.management@sfgov.org

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