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Predictable Scheduling Laws: The Next Trend in Workplace Regulations

Sep 27, 2016 / Media Coverage / shrm.org — Lisa Nagele-Piazza

Editor's Note: Mayor Ed Murray signed Seattle's bill on Sept. 29.)

Inconsistent work-scheduling practices—such as "just-in-time" or on-call scheduling—in the retail and restaurant industries have led some cities to pass or consider laws that provide more stability for workers.

On-call scheduling allows employers to staff at levels that correspond to daily customer traffic and fill any gaps caused by workers who call in sick or make other last-minute changes to their schedules.

However, advocates for predictable scheduling laws say that on-call scheduling negatively impacts low-wage earners who may need to plan ahead for their financial, child care and transportation needs, as well as for second-job or school conflicts.

San Francisco enacted a predictable scheduling law in 2015, and a pending law in Seattle is likely to take effect on July 1, 2017.

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Seattle's Law

On Sept. 19, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the Secure Scheduling Ordinance, which will require certain employers to provide new hires with a good-faith estimate of their work hours and to give employees their work schedules 14 days in advance.

It will also require covered employers to provide additional compensation to workers when their hours are changed with less than two weeks' notice or when they are scheduled to work "clopenings," meaning back-to-back shifts with less than a 10-hour break between shifts.

Mayor Ed Murray has expressed his support of the law. "Secure scheduling helps working families, young people, students and workers of color by providing stability and clarity to their work schedule," he said in a press statement.

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Among other things, the ordinance would:

  • Allow employees to request their preferred schedule and location.
  • Require employers to engage in an interactive process with employees to discuss schedule requests, which must be granted in certain situations unless there is a "bona fide business reason" not to grant the request.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who decline a shift that is added to their schedules with less than two weeks of notice.
  • Require employers to offer shifts to existing staff before hiring additional workers.

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San Francisco Paved the Way

Although more expansive, Seattle's law was initially designed after San Francisco's ordinance that took effect in 2015.

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Employees in San Francisco must receive one hour of "predictability pay" when their schedules are changed with less than seven days but more than 24 hours of notice.

Workers must receive additional pay if they are provided less than 24 hours of notice regarding a schedule change or are not called in to work during an on-call period.

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Is New York City Next?

The predictable scheduling issue has received considerable attention in New York over the past few years.

The state already has a "call-in pay" law that requires employers to pay workers a certain minimum amount of wages if they show up for a scheduled shift and are sent home early.

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Schneiderman has entered agreements with at least eight retailers.

Moreover, on Sept. 15, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his commitment to enacting "fair workweek" legislation.

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If you were subjected to “on-call” scheduling, contact us for a consultation.