On September 19, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed the Secure Scheduling Ordinance (SSO). The new ordinance applies to large employers in the retail and food services industries, and is designed to provide non-exempt, hourly workers with more predictable schedules and compensate employees for last-minute changes to scheduled hours. Mayor Ed Murray is expected to promptly sign the legislation, and the new rules will take effect on July 1, 2017.
Below are the key provisions of the ordinance:
- Employers Covered by SSO: Large employers in retail/food industry. Covered employers include large limited/quick food service (including bars/drinking establishments, food trucks, food service caterers, cafeterias, buffets, snack bars) and retail employers with more than 500 employees worldwide (including franchises, chains and “integrated enterprises” where one entity controls the operations of another entity). Additionally, full-service restaurants with more than 500 worldwide employees and more than 40 full-service locations worldwide, including franchises, chains and integrated enterprises, are also covered by the SSO.
- Employees Covered by SSO: Hourly, non-exempt workers. Covered employees include full-time, part-time and temporary hourly, non-exempt workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time at a fixed location within the City of Seattle. An employee can be covered even if he or she works at more than one site for the employer, including non-Seattle locations. There is an exception for unionized employees. If employees are covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement and have ratified an alternative structure for secure scheduling, such employees are not covered by the SSO.
- Good Faith Estimate of Work Schedule. Employers must provide new and existing employees with a written good faith estimate of future work schedules, and provide an annual update and notice when there is a significant change. Employers also have to engage in an interactive process with employees to discuss the reasons for any significant changes.
- Right to Request Input into the Work Schedule. Employees have the right to make requests at the time of hire and during employment regarding their schedules—both hours worked and location preferences. Employers must engage in an interactive process with employees to address scheduling preferences, and must grant requests for changes due to an employee’s major life event (including serious health conditions, caregiving responsibilities, education/training programs and second job responsibilities), unless there is a bona fide business reason for the denial, which must be in writing.
- Right to Rest Between Work Shifts. Unless an employee requests or has consented to back-to-back shifts, employers must provide at least ten hours between shifts. If an employee requests or consents to such shifts, employers must pay time and one half the employee’s regular hourly rate for the hours worked that are less than ten hours apart. This does not apply to “split shifts.”
- Advance Notice of Work Schedule. Employers must issue a written work schedule at least 14 days in advance of an employee’s first shift. The schedule must be posted conspicuously, include all on-call shifts, and be written in English and any other primary language spoken by employees. Employees may decline to work hours not included on the schedule.
- Work Schedule Changes. If an employer initiates a schedule change by adding or deleting hours, it must timely notify the employee by phone, email, text or other accessible electronic or written format. The employee has a right to decline any shift not on the posted schedule. If an employee wishes to change the schedule, he or she must provide notice to the employer, based on the employer’s usual and customary procedures, as soon as practicable. An employer may ask, but shall not require, employees to find a replacement to cover hours during which the employee is unable to work a scheduled shift due to a major life event. If the employee doesn’t have a protected reason for declining the shift, the employer may require the employee to secure a replacement.
- Compensation for Work Schedule Changes. If, without providing 14 days’ notice, an employer adds hours to an employee’s schedule or changes the employee’s shift with no loss of hours, the employer must pay the employee one additional hour of pay, in addition to wages earned. If the employer cancels some or all of an employee’s hours without proper notice, the employer must pay the employee one-half the employee’s regular hourly rate for all hours lost. Some exceptions apply, based on shift swaps, voluntary chances, disciplinary reasons and other factors.
- Compensation for On-Call Shifts. An employer must pay an employee one-half the employee’s regular hourly rate for any scheduled on-call hours for which the employee must be available, but is not actually called in to work.
- Access to Hours for Existing Employees. When hours become available, employers must offer additional hours of work to existing employees before hiring new employees, subcontractors or temporary employees. Employers must post written notice of newly available hours for at least three consecutive days before hiring new employees.
- Additional Recordkeeping Requirements. The SSO imposes new recordkeeping requirements, mandating that employers keep written documentation demonstrating compliance with the SSO for a period of three years. An employer’s failure to keep proper records creates a rebuttable presumption that the employer violated the SSO for the periods and for each employee for whom records were not properly retained.
- Penalties. The SSO provides for steep financial penalties for violators, including treble damages for unpaid compensation. In addition to treble damages, employers who retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under the SSO are liable for a mandatory penalty payable to the aggrieved party of up to $5,000, as well as other fines and attorneys’ fees. The SSO also creates a private right of action that allows employees to bring their own lawsuits (including class actions) against employers for alleged violations of the SSO.