EPI research spotlights growing number of ‘fair workweek’ state and local laws
New research by the Economic Policy Institute shows that recently implemented fair scheduling and “right-to-request” laws have benefitted more than 1.8 million working people across the country. Since 2016, the state of Oregon and several cities have enacted “fair workweek” protections, which primarily apply to people working in chain retail stores and fast food restaurants. While each policy is unique, they include provisions such as advance notice of work schedules, additional compensation for unexpected schedule changes or “on-call” hours, the right to accept or decline added or lengthened shifts, and mandatory rest periods between shifts, during which time employees must receive a pay premium if they choose to work additional work hours offered by their employer.
The research was conducted by EPI Research Assistant Julia Wolfe, Economic Analyst Janelle Jones, and Senior Economic Analyst David Cooper.
Irregular schedules. Workers in industries such as retail, sales, and hospitality increasingly have to deal with irregular schedules that change with little-to-no advance notice, sometimes requiring employees to remain on call and come to work at a moment’s notice. Research has shown that irregular and unpredictable schedules result in a host of serious problems for working people and their families. They also create volatile incomes, adding an additional barrier for families trying to manage their budgets and plan for the future. At the same time, a growing body of research has found that increasing the predictability, stability, and flexibility of worker schedules can lead to higher productivity and increased sales for retail stores.
Fair workweek laws. The research provides insight into various fair workweek laws that have been enacted. The nearly 740,000 workers protected by these comprehensive laws include an estimated:
327,000 workers in New York City;
175,000 in San Jose, Cal.;
172,000 in the state of Oregon;
40,000 in Seattle, Wash.;
23,000 in San Francisco, Cal.; and
2,500 in Emeryville, Cal.
“Fair workweek legislation helps working people have stability in their budgets and time to spend with their families,” Jones said in a release. “We encourage policymakers across the country to enact similar provisions.”
New York City law. One Fair Workweek Law highlighted in the EPI research is the one that became effective in New York City on November 26, 2017 (NYC DCA 2017a, 2017b). It requires fast-food employers to give employees an estimate of weekly hours, days, and times of work prior to their start of employment and two weeks’ notice of schedules. It also mandates compensation for changes to the posted schedule and guarantees 11 hours’ rest between shifts. Employers must also offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new employees. The law applies to employees at fast-food chains with at least 30 locations in the U.S. who perform any of the following tasks: customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, and routine maintenance.
The New York City law also requires retail employers to provide employees 72 hours’ advance notice of schedules, and forbids last-minute shift additions without the employee’s consent, last-minute shift cancellations, and on-call shifts. This part of the law applies to retail employees of firms with 20 or more employees in New York City.
Right-to-request laws. New Hampshire, Vermont, and San Francisco have passed “right-to-request” statutes, which grant workers the right to request scheduling accommodations. While these laws are more limited in scope, they apply to a broader segment of the workforce, covering about 1,090,000 workers, according to the EPI research: 177,000 in San Francisco; 299,000 in Vermont; and 614,000 in New Hampshire.
Time for lawmakers to act. Campaigns are underway in Washington State and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia to pass similar legislation and ensure that more working people have predictable, stable, and healthier work schedules.
The report’s researchers hope that state lawmakers will act on workers’ needs for fair workweek protections. “In the same way that campaigns for higher minimum wages, paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave have highlighted the need to update labor standards to reflect today’s economy, we hope that policymakers will recognize that stable, predictable, and adequate work hours are just as important to ensuring economic stability for working people,” Wolfe said.
Source: Written by Pamela Wolf, J.D.