S.F. Superior Court decision today sends a ‘message that our Health Care Security Ordinance has teeth, and that the City is committed to enforcing it aggressively’
SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 16, 2013) — A San Francisco Superior Court judge today affirmed administrative orders against a local commercial janitorial services company to pay some $1.34 million to 275 of its current and former employees who were denied health care benefit expenditures to which they were entitled under San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance, or HCSO. Enacted in 2006, the HCSO established the popular “Healthy San Francisco” program and created an employer spending requirement to fund health care benefits for employees in the City.
The court order issued late this morning by Judge Marla J. Miller found “substantial evidence” to support prior findings by San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement and an administrative law judge that GMG Janitorial, Inc. failed to make the required expenditures on behalf of its workers for the period 2008 to 2010. After losing its administrative appeal before the administrative law judge, GMG Janitorial filed suit in Superior Court on July 2, 2012, arguing that the OLSE exceeded its authority under local law by ordering full restitution, and that the administrative law judge’s findings were unsupported by the evidence. Judge Miller’s ruling decisively rejected both contentions in ordering the company to pay $1,339,028 to its employees “in order to correct its failure to make the required expenditures.” The order will additionally allow the City to recover its costs in the action in an amount to be determined.
“This is an important ruling that will directly compensate employees who were denied benefits, while also assuring law-abiding competitors that they won’t have to compete with cheaters,” said City Attorney Dennis Herrera. “Judge Miller’s ruling sends a strong message that our Health Care Security Ordinance has teeth, and that the City is committed to enforcing it aggressively. I’m grateful to everyone in the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement for their excellent work.”
“When low-wage workers are denied their rightful health care benefits, the human consequences are incalculable,” said OLSE Manager Donna Levitt. “The vast majority of San Francisco employers comply with both the letter and the spirit of this law, which is why it’s so important that violators are brought to justice.”
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office played a key role in working with then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano and Mayor Gavin Newsom to craft the City’s groundbreaking universal health care law enacted in 2006. Almost immediately thereafter, the office embarked on a four-year legal battle to defend the law from a challenge by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. The ordinance was conclusively upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in the case on June 28, 2010.
San Francisco’s OLSE enforces labor laws adopted by San Francisco voters and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In addition to investigating violations of the Health Care Security Ordinance, OLSE also enforces San Francisco’s Minimum Wage Ordinance; Paid Sick Leave Ordinance; Minimum Compensation Ordinance; Health Care Accountability Ordinance; and Sweatfree Contracting Ordinance. Violations of the Health Care Security Ordinance may be reported to OLSE at (415) 554-7892 or HCSO@sfgov.org. Its website is http://www.sfgov.org/olse.
The case is: GMG Janitorial, Inc. v. City and County of San Francisco et al., San Francisco Superior Court, Case No. 512328, filed July 2, 2012.
PDF of the GMG Janitorial, Inc. S.F. Superior Court ruling presskit(Oct. 16, 2013)