How to Comply

employee-handbook.jpgOver 20,000 firms comply with the City and County of San Francisco's Equal Benefits Ordinance!



What is the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

The Equal Benefits Ordinance, also known as Chapter 12B of the San Francisco Administrative Code, requires entities that enter into contracts or property contracts with the City of San Francisco to:

  1. provide the same benefits to employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses, and
  2. agree to not discriminate against their own employees, employees of the City, members of the public and others who are members of protected classes.

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Who are Domestic Partners?

Domestic Partners are defined as same-sex and opposite-sex couples registered with any state or local government agency authorized to perform such registrations. If your firm requires proof of relationship and waiting periods to qualify for employee benefits, the requirements must be exactly the same for domestic partnerships and marriages. For example, domestic partner registry certificates = marriage certificates.

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What makes an employee benefit equal? 

Health/Dental/Vision Insurance   Spouses and Domestic Partners can both be added as dependents on the employee’s plan. If stepchildren can be added, then the children of domestic partners must also be eligible for coverage. COBRA-like coverage is available to Domestic Partners for the same length of time and at the same cost as Spouses.

COBRA Continuation Coverage    When COBRA coverage is available as part of an insurance policy, COBRA-like continuation coverage is available to domestic partners and their children to the same degree and in the same manner as continuation coverage is available to spouses and stepchildren.

Pension/Retirement/401(K)    Anyone can be a beneficiary. When an employee dies, their Spouse or Non-spouse (Domestic Partner) beneficiaries have access to the same distribution options, for example, lump sum, installments, and joint and survivor annuities.

Leaves     Employees may take time off to care for a Spouse or Domestic Partner, and if applicable, equivalent family members, under the same terms and for the same length of time. This applies to all types of leaves: Bereavement, Family Medical/Military (FMLA), Parental, Sick, etc.

LTD/STD/AD&D      Any survivor or training benefits are equally available to spouse and domestic partner beneficiaries.

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Does the Equal Benefits Ordinance apply to me?

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

Joint venture partners are required to comply with the Ordinance on an individual basis, and the joint venture itself must establish its own vendor record and complete the Equal Benefits compliance process.

The Ordinance does not apply to subcontractors.

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What do I do to comply with the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

1. Ensure all benefits are currently offered equally to employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners. 

  1. Equal benefit language must be incorporated in all written and oral policies. In general, this means that domestic partners and their family members must be included wherever spouses and their family members are referenced.
  2. For assistance with documentation requirements, consult the Equal Benefits Documentation Guide (PDF, 1 pg).  
  3. You may also obtain guidance by e-mailing us at or calling us at 415-581-2310. 

2. Assemble the required supporting documentation.

  1. Legal verification of firm size. This is generally a tax form that indicates how many W-2 forms have been filed in the past year.
    • Examples include: 941 Form, W-3 Form, W-2 Summary Sheet, DE 9C Form, Electronic Wage Reporting (Social Security Online), San Francisco Payroll Expense Tax and Gross Receipts Tax Form, SS-4 Form, 990 Form, and Schedule SE (Form 1040).
    • Please redact confidential employee information.
    • Important note: firms without employees are also required to provide verification.
    • If you have questions regarding the verification requirements, contact the Equal Benefits Unit at or 415-581-2310. 
  2. A copy of a memorandum that you have sent to your employees notifying them of your firm's compliant domestic partner benefit and nondiscrimination policies.
    • The memorandum is not a substitute for compliant employee handbook or intranet policies. It is a summary of existing benefit administration that clarifies domestic partner-related policies.
    • The Employee Memorandum template contains all of the necessary confirmations. It is intended to be adapted to reflect your firm’s domestic partner benefit administration and should be distributed on your firm’s letterhead.

3. Start the process of registering as a City Supplier here:

4. Complete the online CMD-12B-101 Declaration and submit it with the required supporting documentation.

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What other forms might be used to complete the Equal Benefits process?

The Contract Monitoring Division also uses the forms below to administer the Equal Benefits Ordinance.  The Forms & Resources page describes how to use the forms.

CMD-12B-102 Reasonable Measures Application (PDF, 2 pgs)

CMD-12B-103 Substantial Compliance Authorization Request (PDF, 2 pgs)

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How does the Contract Monitoring Division determine if my policies and benefits are compliant with the requirements of the Equal Benefits Ordinance?

First, a Contract Compliance Officer analyzes your 12B Declaration to ensure that it is correct, complete and compliant. Then the supporting documentation is evaluated to determine whether you have provided legal verification of your firm’s employee count and employees have received sufficient notification of your firm’s nondiscrimination and domestic partner policies.

If your firm does not provide a compliant Declaration and sufficient supporting documentation, a Contract Compliance Officer will contact you to request additional and/or revised documentation. Please be aware that failure to provide the right supporting documentation will delay the compliance process.

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Are there tips for completing the compliance process?

  1. Implement equal benefits for spouses and domestic partners.
    Ensure that domestic partner benefits are in place and that all benefit documentation incorporates domestic partner language wherever spouses are referenced.
  2. Use the correct definition of Domestic Partner.
    Domestic partners are defined as same-sex and opposite-sex couples registered with any state or local government agency authorized to perform such registrations. Any requirements for proof of relationship or waiting periods must be applied equally to domestic partners and married couples. For example, domestic partner registry certificates must be recognized as fully equivalent to marriage certificates.
  3. Start the compliance process as early as possible. 
    Ideally, start the process of becoming an approved Supplier here. In the Supplier Work Center, complete the online 12B Declaration and provide complete and compliant supporting documentation so you can complete the process before you are facing a contract execution deadline.
  4. Contact us for assistance. 
    If you are not sure how to proceed, please call us at 415-581-2310 or email us at A short conversation with one of our Contract Compliance Officers can go a long way toward ensuring that the documentation you submit accurately reflects your benefits.

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What can I expect from an audit

The Equal Benefits Unit performs audits to verify that the information provided during the compliance registration process is accurate and complete

We examine your firm’s policies and will help you amend them if necessary to ensure that employees with domestic partners and employees with spouses receive exactly the same benefits.

Your firm’s employee handbook will be reviewed to verify that domestic partner language is incorporated wherever spouses are referenced. If, for example, the bereavement leave policy references an employee’s in-laws or step-family members, then the equivalent members of a domestic partner's family must be explicitly included.

Documentation of insurance and pension/retirement/savings plans must come from a third party benefit provider or the official plan documents.

For a detailed description of the documentation standards, review the very helpful l Equal Benefits Documentation Guide (PDF, 1 pg).

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Contract Monitoring Division 
Equal Benefits Unit
30 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 200
San Francisco, CA 94102