New Silicon Valley perk: paid time off to protest

Facebook is giving employees paid time off May 1 to join protests against President Trump’s immigration policies. Critics say left-leaning Silicon Valley is pushing an anti-conservative agenda, but it says it is strengthening civic responsibility.

Published April 27, 2017

Like thousands of Bay Area residents, software engineer Risha Mars skipped work on International Women’s Day to rally for women’s issues on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall.

Unlike many of her fellow protesters, Ms. Mars didn’t need to worry about taking off on a Wednesday afternoon; she was on paid leave.

“I didn’t feel pressured or guilty for leaving work,” she recalls. “I felt very lucky to be able to do that.”

About a month before the protest, Mars’s company – a San Francisco startup called Buoyant – joined a handful of others in announcing that it would provide additional paid time off for employees to participate in civic activities. The idea, says Buoyant chief executive William Morgan, is to support democracy by encouraging workers to take the time they need, including office hours, to engage in politics, volunteer work, and civic service.

“It’s a recognition of the fact that civic engagement is something that we should be doing not just as individuals but as a company,” he says. “I wanted to make it more clear that we could not be passive citizens in this world.”

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