Monday, September 26, 2016

Predictable Scheduling: Wave of the Future?

On September 19, 2016, the City Council in Seattle passed, by unanimous vote, an ordinance requiring some employers to implement predictable work scheduling practices.  The Secure Scheduling Ordinance, to be effective on July 1, 2017, will apply to retail and fast-food employers with 500 or more employees and at least 40 locations around the globe and to employees who spend at least 50 percent of their working time at locations within the city limits of Seattle.  The Seattle ordinance follows in the footsteps of a similar ordinance in San Francisco and may become a model for other jurisdictions that are considering such legislation, including Illinois and the City of Chicago.

Predictable scheduling has several elements, including:

1) The Right to Request, which provides employees with the right to request adjustments in work schedules without retaliation from the employer.  This is a feature of the San Francisco and Seattle ordinances and legislation in Vermont.  The Seattle ordinance also requires employers to engage in an interactive process to discuss employees’ requests and to provide bona fide reasons for declining scheduling requests.

2) Good Faith Estimates.  The Seattle ordinance requires covered employers to make good faith estimates of employee work schedules, at hire and annually thereafter, covering estimated hours to be worked and whether on-call work will be required.  In Seattle, employers will be required to post schedules 14 days in advance.  Advance notice of scheduling changes is also required in San Francisco and has been introduced in eight states and at the federal level.

3) Reporting Pay.  This element requires pay to employees who are sent home (for other than disciplinary or personal illness reasons) without working or before the end of the scheduled shift.  Reporting pay is a feature of legislation in effect in nine states, San Francisco, and Seattle.

4) On-Call Pay.  In the Seattle and San Francisco ordinances, covered employers are required to provide employees with two weeks’ advance notice of on-call shifts, and an employee will be entitled to pay for a minimum number of hours regardless of how many hours the employee actually works.  Legislation requiring on-call pay also has been introduced in seven states.

5) Split-Shift Pay.  In San Francisco, California, and Washington, D.C., covered employers are required pay extra compensation to an employee for working a split shift, that is, a shift that is split into two or more segments with intervening periods of one hour or more between segments.  

6) Predictability Pay.  The Seattle ordinance goes beyond reporting pay and on-call pay to provide for extra compensation to employees whose schedules are changed by the employer.  If an employer adds hours or changes the dates or length of the shift on a posted schedule, the employer must pay the affected employee an additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate, in addition to the pay earned by the employee for working the shift, regardless of whether the employee loses work hours as a result of the change. 

  7) Other provisions.  The Seattle ordinance requires at least 10 hours between scheduled shifts and provides that work opportunities must be offered first to existing part-time workers before hiring new workers from outside the workforce.

Many of these provisions will be familiar to employers with union contracts.  But some of the provisions go beyond the protections typically afforded even to union workers.  Predictability provisions are likely to be enacted in a number of states and some of the larger cities, and they join paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave legislation as key quality of working life provisions to which employers will be required to adjust in the coming years.