Guidance for Employees of the City and County of San Francisco

Updated as of 3/24/2020 at 9:30am and may be amended.

Shelter in Place Public Health Order

What does the Shelter in Place mean for me?

San Francisco and neighboring Bay Area counties issued a Public Health Order requiring everyone to shelter in place beginning on March 17, 2020. This law requires everyone to stay home except to shop for food, care for a relative or friend, seek necessary health care, go to an essential job, or perform an essential task.

Employees performing essential services must still report to work. Employees who can perform their work remotely must continue to work from home.

Is this mandatory or is it just guidance?

It is mandatory. California law requires you to follow this order. It is a misdemeanor crime not to follow the order (although the intent is not for anyone to get into trouble).

It is critical for everyone to follow the order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect themselves, their loved ones, friends, neighbors and the whole community.

All persons, businesses, and other entities are required to comply if they do not fall within the exemptions that are specified in the Order.

Am I an "essential employee"?

All City employees perform important work. However, during this time, some work is essential to keep the people of San Francisco healthy and safe, and to keep the City operational. These are “Essential Services”. Other work may need to be put on hold until the COVID-19 emergency ends and all employees can return to work. Essential Services include but are not limited to the following list. Employees who fulfill duties related to the services below should report to work. If you have questions, check with your manager or supervisor:

  • Public Safety (Police Officers, Firefighters) Healthcare workers (Nurses, Doctors, Respiratory therapists, etc.)
  • Jails
  • Courts (Judges, Attorneys etc.)
  • Garbage/sanitation
  • Transportation (Bus drivers, train operators, etc.)
  • Utilities: Water, Power, Gas
  • Essential Office work (Payroll, security, and administration, etc.)

What are social distancing requirements?

If you must leave the house, follow these requirements to keep yourself and others healthy:

  • Avoid groups of people.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others. (When you are outside, you can be closer than 6 feet with people you live with.)
  • Reduce the amount of time you are outside the home.

The best way to reduce your risk of getting sick, as with seasonal colds or the flu, still applies to prevent COVID-19:

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze.
  • Stay home if you are sick.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • When you are in line, keep 6 feet of distance between you and others. When that isn’t possible, keep the duration short.
  • Be sure you don’t sneeze or cough onto people. If needed, cough or sneeze into your shirt or into an elbow with clothing on.

What can't I do?

You cannot participate in group activities with others.

You cannot have dinner parties. You cannot invite friends over to your home to hang out.

You cannot go to bars or nightclubs.

You cannot go to a nail salon or get your hair cut by a stylist or barber.

You cannot go shopping for non-essential goods.

You cannot take unnecessary trips on public transport or in your car or motorbike.

What can I do?

You can spend quality time with roommates or live-in family members in your home.

You can go outside to exercise or walk your dog, as long as you keep 6 feet of distance from others.

You can make a quick trip to the store to buy groceries and other essential items.

You can provide care for relatives to make sure they are healthy and safe.

You can seek medical attention if needed. (Many doctors and hospitals are encouraging people to have telephone of videoconference appointments rather than coming in person.)

You can work from home.

You can go to work if you perform Essential Services or if you are deployed as a Disaster Service Worker. (Check with your supervisor first)

For more information about the Shelter In Place order visit the Department of Public Health website.

Employee Leave and Compensation

Can I use sick leave if I am sick with COVID-19, or if I am placed in quarantine by public health officials?

Yes. Civil Service Rules allow employees to use paid or unpaid sick leave for illness and quarantine ordered by your doctor or the Public Health Department. If you have run out of accrued sick leave, your department has discretion to approve your use of other accrued leaves, such as vacation, floating holidays, or compensation time.

Do I need to submit a doctor’s note if I am absent more than five (5) days during the COVID-19 emergency?

It depends.

For COVID-19 or similar symptoms: No, your department will not require you to submit a doctor’s note or other verification for absences caused by COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath. Do not come into work if your doctor advises you to stay home, or if you are sick. Let your supervisor know.

For absences due to other types of illness or injury: Yes, you must submit a doctor’s note for more than five days of medical leave, during periods of Sick Leave Restriction, and when requested for medical clearance to return to work following absences of more than five days.

If I call in sick and my health improves, do I need to provide my department with medical clearance to return to work?

If you are out sick due to COVID-19 related symptoms, you do not need to provide medical clearance to return to work regardless of the length of your medical leave. Supervisors will observe all employees for performance problems or symptoms of illness that raise concerns. An employee should not be at work if they are unhealthy and may make others sick. Supervisors have the right to send an employee home if there are concerns about health issues affecting the employee’s job performance.

When will departments place employees on Paid Administrative Leave?

If you are sent home because of possible workplace exposure to COVID-19 and you cannot do work from home, then you may be placed on Paid Furlough or Paid Administrative Leave (PAL). Your department will determine whether you can telecommute (for example, do phone consultations). If there are work projects you can do by telecommuting, then you may remain on regular paid status.

Can a department send an employee home if the department believes the employee is too sick to work?

Yes. Employees who come to work and cannot safely perform their duties due to illness will be instructed to go home by a supervisor or manager. The department will support the decision to send an employee home with evidence that the employee is unable to work without risk of harm to the employee, coworkers or the public.

If you are asked to go home due to illness, these are the options for your leave:

  • You will be placed on paid sick leave.
  • If you have exhausted your paid sick leave balances, you may use other accrued paid leave or take unpaid sick leave.
  • If you are eligible to accrue sick leave, you may request up to 80 hours of advance sick leave for COVID-19 related illness.

What should I do if I have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or I have symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath)?

Contact your supervisor. Your supervisor will instruct you to stay home until you are cleared by your healthcare provider to return to work, or until you no longer have symptoms.

If you are instructed to stay home due to illness, these are the options for your leave:

  • You will be placed on paid sick leave.
  • If you have exhausted your paid sick leave balances, you may use other accrued paid leave or take unpaid sick leave.
  • If you are eligible to accrue sick leave, you may request up to 80 hours of advance sick leave for COVID-19 related illness.

What should I do if my healthcare provider advises me to self-isolate and I do not have symptoms consistent with COVID-19?

Talk to your supervisor about telecommuting.

If there are no work projects you can do from home, then you will be allowed to use paid sick leave or any other paid leave (vacation, floating holidays, compensatory time off)

If you have exhausted your paid leave balance, then you may take unpaid sick leave.

What should I do if I am a member of the vulnerable population at risk of being infected by COVID-19?

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether you are a member of the vulnerable population and whether it is safe for you to go to work.

If you are a member of the vulnerable population and do not want to go to work, let your supervisor know. You may request leave or request telecommuting.

If it is possible, your supervisor will work with you to create a telecommuting work plan.

If telecommuting is not possible, then you may use vacation or other accrued leave.

If your vulnerable condition is also a qualifying disability, then your department will allow you to use accrued sick leave.

If you exhaust your paid leave balances, you may take unpaid sick leave.

What is paid furlough, and can I request it?

Employees cannot request paid furlough. The department makes that determination. You may be placed on paid furlough (meaning you will be paid even while you are at home) if your supervisor asks you to stay at home due to the shelter in place order, and there are no telecommute work projects for you to do from home. Remember that when you are placed on paid furlough, you may be recalled to work or deployed as a DSW at any time, and you must be available to work. If you are placed on paid furlough, your vacation and sick pay will accrue at your usual rate. Only regularly scheduled employees are eligible to receive paid furlough.

You cannot withdraw vacation, sick, or child bonding leave requests because you want paid furlough instead. Employees cannot request paid furlough.

What should I do if I am unable to come to work because my child’s school or childcare provider has closed?

Talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor may allow you to telecommute if you can do work projects from home, and if you can still work a full day while providing childcare.

If you cannot telecommute, you will be able to use paid sick leave or any other paid leave (vacation, floating holidays, compensatory time off).

If you exhaust your paid leave balances, you may take unpaid sick leave.

Eligible employees may request up to 80 hours of advance sick leave or vacation to care for a child during a COVID-19 related school closure.

Effective April 2, 2020, employees who cannot telecommute may take up to 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave to care for a child during a COVID-19 related school closure. The first 10 workdays of this leave are unpaid, but employees may elect to use accrued sick leave, or other accrued time to receive pay. After 10 days, employees who have exhausted all accrued leave will receive up to 10 additional weeks of paid leave at the employee’s regular pay, but not to exceed $511 per day.

What if I am not able to come to work due to transportation disruptions caused by the COVID-19 public health emergency?

Consider alternative methods of commuting or modifying your work hours.

Talk to your supervisor. Your supervisor may allow you to telecommute.

If telecommuting is not possible, your supervisor may shift you to a flexible work schedule to allow additional commute time, or possibly provide you with an alternative work location.

If the you cannot come to work at all, you should request time off using your available leave balances.

If I am an employee with an as-need schedule and I am exposed to COVID-19 and required to quarantine, how will I be compensated?

For employees without a regular schedule, the weekly sick leave pay benefit should be equal to the average number of hours the employee worked each week over the 6-month period ending on the date the employee’s leave begins, including any paid leave hours.

Disaster Service Workers

How are Disaster Service Worker (DSW) assignments designated, and what factors are considered?

DSW assignments are based on the needs of the Emergency Operations Center, departmental operations, employee skills and qualifications, and employee availability. Employees assigned to the EOC are typically assigned a 2-week deployment, but the duration will vary depending on operational needs. Your department will receive a DSW request that outlines the proposed job class, duties, hours, duration of the assignment, and reporting location. DSWs may have specialized duties depending on their normal work or any special skills they may possess. Employees may also have to perform general duties that are not part of their normal duties, such as clerical support, damage assessment, driving, food preparation, sorting, packing, or loading. Employees will not be assigned DSW work for which they are not qualified and trained.

When will I receive my DSW assignment?

Departmental Personnel Officers will make DSW assignments in consultation with their Department Heads or designated Managers. DHR’s Department Operation Center will provide specifics on DSW assignments (DSW location, hours, and to whom to report). You will be notified with as much advance notice as possible but, in an emergency, it is difficult to provide more than 24 hours notice.

Can I volunteer for DSW assignments? Will the department ask for volunteers first?

Departments may ask for volunteers before making mandatory assignments. Departments should take into consideration department operational needs, employee availability, employee discipline or attendance issues, and the skill set needed for the DSW assignment.

Are DSW assignments mandatory?

Yes. California law designates all public employees as Disaster Service Workers (DSWs). DSWs perform disaster-related duties as required to promote and maintain public health and safety during a declared emergency. DSWs may be required to come to work at any time of day to perform disaster-related duties. These duties may not be part of an employee’s regular duties and may not be at the regular work location. DSW responsibilities may continue into the recovery phase of an emergency and may be organized into daily or hourly shifts that are different from an employee’s regular work schedule.

Can I refuse my DSW assignment?

All City employees are designated by both State and City law as Disaster Service Workers and are expected to report to duty when called upon. If you are otherwise available but do not want to accept a DSW assignment, your department will meet with you to address any concerns about the assignment.

Will I have my same work hours while in a DSW assignment?

Whenever possible, current schedules will be maintained. However, operational needs of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will determine DSW assignments and work hours.

Will I keep my alternative work schedule as a DSW?

You can request alternative work schedules during your DSW deployment. However, work schedules may change temporarily during DSW deployment due to the operational needs of the Emergency Operations Center.

How long will DSW assignments last?

DSW assignments are based on EOC necessity. However, most employees will serve approximately two weeks in an assignment before another employee in the rotation is assigned.

Will employees be allowed to take previously approved vacations or attend medical appointments, and attend to childcare issues, and other obligations during the COVID-19 public health emergency?

The EOC will work with DSW employees who request leave for personal needs, such as childcare drop-off/pick-up, medical appointments, and pre-approved vacations. To the extent practical, flexible schedules and leaves will be approved. However, operational needs of the Emergency Operations Center will determine DSW assignments, work schedules and leave approvals.

If a DSW employee is sick, whom do they notify?

If you will be absent from work as a DSW, you should notify both your designated contact for your DSW assignment, and your regular supervisor.

How will DSWs be compensated?

Employees will continue to receive their normal pay during DSW deployment (including overtime or compensatory time, if they should earn it).


Does my department have to allow me to telecommute?

During this emergency, the City is encouraging departments to allow telecommuting when operational needs and technology make it possible. Each department retains the right to determine whether an individual employee’s job can be done remotely. There are some jobs that cannot be done remotely and there are critical public services that must be provided in person, including responding as a DSW. Please review the telecommute policy for additional information:

DHR recommends the following when reviewing employee telecommute requests:

  • Give priority for telecommuting to employees who self-identify as being part of the COVID-19 vulnerable population
  • If more employees desire to telecommute than can be accommodated, alternate telecommute days among employees so that more employees can work remotely for intermittent periods
  • If a telecommute request cannot be granted, document the business reasons for denying the request and share the reason with the requesting employee

Workers' Compensation

If I am exposed to COVID-19 at work entitled to workers’ compensation benefits?

No. Workers’ compensation benefits are extended to employees who become injured or ill as a result of their work. An exposure is not an illness.

What if I contract COVID-19 after the known exposure? Would that be a valid workers’ compensation claim?

The Workers’ Compensation Division will evaluate each claim on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the work activities were the direct source of the illness.

Will my time off for COVID-19 isolation or testing be covered by Workers’ Compensation?

No. An exposure is not an illness.

Is there a “presumption” that health care workers or first responders who contract COVID-19 are covered by Workers’ Compensation?

No, there are no legal presumptions that COVID-19 infections are related to work for first responders or health care workers. However, any of these employees who contract COVID-19 and believe that it is a direct result of their work activities should report it to their supervisor and file a Workers’ Compensation claim.

What if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

You should always contact your health care provider with health concerns. If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 as a result of their work can also contact the Nurse Triage/Injury Hotline at 855-850-2249 to discuss their concerns and file a report of the exposure or illness.

Who can answer my questions about workplace exposure from coworkers or the public, and about to keep employees safe?

You can call the Nurse Triage/Injury Hotline at 855-850-2249 to get your questions answered on the likelihood of exposure and how to stay safe at work.

If I have questions that were not answered in these FAQs, who do I talk to?

You should first reach out to HR representative or email