Council passes secure scheduling legislation

The Seattle City Council passed legislation on Monday, Sept. 19, that will give a number of food and retail employees earlier notice of their work schedules and mandate large employers provide increased compensation when those schedules change.

The secure scheduling legislation will apply to retail and food service establishments with 500 or more employees worldwide and full-service restaurants with 500 or more employees and at least 40 locations worldwide.

Among the city councilmembers spearheading the legislation was Lisa Herbold, who said Monday the focus on larger businesses would capture those employees most affected by unpredictable work schedules, and those employers are ones with the human resource staffing capable of carrying out the new law.

Councilmember Lorena Gonzalez joined Herbold in promoting a different process for the legislation’s development, which involved 17 stakeholder meetings over the past eight months between mayor’s office and council staff. The  Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee held 10 meetings in that time, including representatives from the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, as that city was the first to adopt secure scheduling legislation.

The city also commissioned a survey of scheduling managers and employees by Vigdor Measurement & Evaluation to assist in developing the legislation.

Under the law, which is planned to take effect in July, employers must make a “good faith estimate” of an employee’s hours at least 14 days beforehand. Any changes to the schedule after that time requires one hour of pay in addition to wages earned, if those changes do not cause a loss of hours. A loss of hours after the schedule is posted would mean an employee receives half pay, including those place on call and are not actually called into work. Employees will have the right to decline changes without retaliation.

The Vigdor survey found 25 percent of respondents received three days or less notice of their upcoming work schedule. Additionally, the survey found about half would rather have a week’s advance notice of their schedule than a 20 percent pay premium.

Grocery worker Jeanette Randall told the council Monday she receives her work schedule two days prior to its start, as does her husband, who is in the same industry. The secure scheduling legislation will allow them to better plan for child care, attending school functions and medical appointments, Randall said.

“We’ve seen decades of just-in-time scheduling,” said Working Washington executive director Sejal Parikh, among other issues like calling employees in to fill shifts on short notice. “For too long, power has rested 100 percent with employers.”

Another section of the legislation requires employers to provide existing employees with additional hours if they request them before hiring on new employees.

“This is what economic security and the demand for economic security looks like,” Gonzalez said. “It is meaningless, in my belief, to have one of the highest minimum wages, if you only work five hours one week.”

The secure scheduling legislation also prohibits “clopening” schedules, where an employee may be required to work until closing and then come back in for a store’s opening shift. If such a gap in opening and closing is less than 10 hours, the employee will receive time-and-a-half for the difference, under the law. Seventy-five percent of employees surveyed by Vigdor reported working a “clopening” in the past two weeks, 31 percent of which being required by the employer.

Like with Seattle’s success in pushing for a staggered minimum wage increase to $15, Councilmember Kshama Sawant said “this victory is going to be contagious in America.”

New York, Washington, D.C., and Albuquerque are also considering enacting secure scheduling legislation.

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards will enforce the law, which provides penalties starting at $500 per affected worker for the first violation, increasing for additional violations.

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