What You Need to Know About Fair Workweek Laws


This article gives a thorough overview of the Fair Workweek” Initiative, and why predictable scheduling matters to shift workers. It also details how employees, managers, and employers are affected by Fair Workweek laws and regulations. Finally, it provides resources (besides the Shyft app) businesses can use to become compliant with predictable scheduling laws in Seattle, New York City, Oregon, and San Francisco.

What is “Predictable Scheduling?”

‘Predictable scheduling,’ also known as ‘advanced scheduling,’ or ‘fair scheduling’ laws are being enacted in a number of cities and states to protect hourly shift workers from bearing the burden of unpredictable business. Employees in many businesses are often working for a near-minimum wage, and are heavily reliant on working all their shifts to pay their bills and stay afloat.

More than half of minimum wage workers are working more than one job. Any shifts that are added, rescheduled, or canceled at the last minute can mean a lot of instability for shift workers, in terms of their finances and scheduling for other commitments. Predictable scheduling laws promise to restore some stability to the lives of shift workers, by giving them reasonable notices of when their shifts are.

From Fair Workweek.org:

Fair Workweek policies ensure that working people have stable and predictable work hours, more opportunities to work full-time, healthier schedules with adequate rest, and a fair voice in when and how much they work. These basic standards can be reached by establishing modern work-hours policy including:

  • Predictable Schedules that you and your family can count on.
    • Ensures work schedules at least two weeks in advance, pay for on-call or canceled shifts, predictability pay for employer’s changing scheduling needs, the right to decline extra hours added with short-notice, and estimated weekly hours.
  • Opportunity to Work enough hours for a livable paycheck.
    • Ensures that existing part-time employees have a chance to pick up newly available hours before their employer hires additional staff.
  • Healthy Schedules for time to sleep, commute, and care for yourself and family.
    • Ensures 10-11 hours of rest between shifts with the right to decline or overtime pay for working shifts with less rest to allow
  • Flexibility to be there for our families.
    • Ensures working people can have flexibility and make scheduling requests to adjust their availability without fear of termination, reduction in hours, or other retaliation.

When Are These Laws in Effect?

At the time of writing, a few cities have predictable scheduling/advanced scheduling laws that are live and in effect. Seattle, San Francisco, Emeryville (California) and New York City are the only cities that have Fair Workweek legislation live.

However, the entire state of Oregon has passed a predictive scheduling law that will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Many more cities and states are working on legislation or considering bills such as California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York,  North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island.

The regulations vary by city and industry, but the general scheme of fair workweek regulations are as follows:

  1. Businesses must provide schedules to employees 3 to 14 days in advance.
  2. Shifts cannot be canceled without at least 72 hours notice
  3. Changing a shift, ending it early, etc., requires that the employee be given a premium payment ranging from $15-$100
  4. Premium payments get larger when the minimum time between shifts is violated. Example: An employee in New York City that is scheduling ‘clopening’ shifts, (closing and opening a restaurant), is to receive a $100 premium for the minimum time violation. Additionally, they should receive $500 in damages if the city is notified and takes action.

Which Businesses Are Affected?

Affected businesses vary by city and industry, but generally, predictable scheduling laws cover all employees of retail, fast food, and sometimes, hospitality chains. Think Burger King, Forever 21, Best Western. Businesses that are not owned by the chain, but are subcontracted by it, are generally covered under the law as well. For example, a security company subcontracted by RestaurantCo to put a guard in the KiddieZone Playground would have to abide by the laws, as their employees work in a fast food location.

How Does Advance Scheduling Affect Employees?

There’s no real downside for employees with these laws. Employees should receive their schedules earlier, have a good idea of how many hours they will get in a week, and be able to estimate how much money they will make (shortened or canceled shifts come with premium payments to make up the loss). Employers may have to be more selective or fair with distributing shifts, but unless an employee is receiving preferential treatment in terms of scheduling, employees only stand to benefit.

How Does Advance Scheduling Affect Employers?

Employers will need to tighten up their scheduling toolbox, as adding, cutting, or switching shifts after the advance notification period results in premiums and damages being paid to employees, fines, or both. In Seattle, managers cutting hours on their employees are still on the hook to pay half of their wages for the hours they don’t work. In New York, cutting an employees hours with less than 24 hours notice is a $75 fine.

Repetitive fines in New York can be seen as a pattern of breaking the law, and carry a penalty of up to $15,000.  

It should be noted that if employees voluntarily swap shifts with each other with no involvement of the business, there are no penalties for employers.

Employers should leverage both back-end tools and front-end mobile technologies (for their workers) to better comply. All predictable scheduling legislation requires electronic transfers of schedules to employees, record keeping of schedule records, or ‘Mass communication’ tools for broadcasting shifts to team members ie. text, email, etc.. These are all areas where mobile apps like Shyft can help. Improved payroll solutions, clock-in clock-out software, and POS software can all also help with meeting the legislative requirements.

Additional Employer Responsibility: Recordkeeping, Good Faith Estimates

In addition to paying premiums and fines for any schedule changes requested by the business, there are other new requirements such as:

  • An itemized list of premiums or bonus payments on pay-stubs
  • Employers must provide Good Faith Estimates to their employees about how many shifts and hours they can expect to work in the upcoming months.
  • Elimination of “on-call” work, or minimum payment for on-call shifts
  • Elimination of “Clopenings” shifts.
  • Paystubs and work schedules must be kept for three years. Upon request, Good Faith Estimates, a history of all shift changes, along with written consent for any changes, must be presented to the employee or local authority.
  • Posters of these new regulations must be placed in the business, in English and any other primary language of workers.

Is your business governed by the new predictable scheduling laws?

Download one of Shyft’s Fair Workweek Overnight Compliance Kits to get your business fully compliant with new laws!

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