On September 19, the Seattle City Council unanimously passed a secure scheduling ordinance that will regulate how large retail stores and food-service employers schedule workers working in Seattle. Mayor Ed Murray is expected to sign the ordinance into law. The ordinance will become effective on July 1, 2017.

The passage of this ordinance places Seattle at the forefront of a national trend. San Francisco was the first city to implement secure scheduling legislation in an effort to create more predictable work schedules. Because numerous other jurisdictions are considering similar legislation including California, Connecticut, Illinois, Oregon, New York, North Carolina and Washington D.C., employers in all industries around the country should monitor this development.

Details About Seattle’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance1

Who Will Be Affected?

The Seattle ordinance will cover retail and quick-service-food employers with 500 or more employees worldwide, and full-service restaurants with 500 or more employees and at least 40 locations worldwide. Hourly, nonexempt employees who work at least 50 percent of their time at physical locations within Seattle-city limits are covered.

Good Faith Scheduling Estimates Will Be Required

Covered employers will have to provide “good faith estimates” of employees’ work schedules upon hire and annually, estimating the median number of hours to be worked and whether the employees’ schedule will include on-call shifts. Covered employers will not be bound by the estimates, but they will need to engage in an interactive process with employees if they make significant changes to the estimates. Covered employers will be required to post schedules 14 days in advance.

Payment for On-Call Time

Under the ordinance, covered employers will also be required to provide employees with two weeks’ advance notice of all on-call shifts, which is defined to include all time on-site or off-site that employees must be available to report to work. Employees will be entitled to predictability pay for on-call shifts if they do not report to work.

Employees Entitled to Provide Input into Schedules

Employees will have the right to request input into their work schedules when they are hired and during employment. Employees are permitted to request schedule changes for serious health conditions, caregiver responsibilities, enrollment in career-related programs and employees’ other job(s). Employers will need to engage in an interactive process to discuss employees’ requests and offer bona fide reasons for declining scheduling requests.

The ordinance requires 10 hours between scheduled shifts, unless employees request or consent to the shifts. Even then, consenting employees are entitled to time and one-half pay for all time spent working that is less than 10 hours from their previous shifts.

Predictability Pay

The most taxing part of this ordinance is the “predictability pay” that employers must provide to employees if they change employees’ work schedules. If employers add hours or change dates or length of shifts, even if the employees do not lose any hours, employers owe affected employees for one hour of pay paid at the employee’s regular rate, in addition to the amount earned during the shift. However, when employers cancel shifts, schedule employees for on-call shifts where they do not need to report to work, or change shifts that result in hours being lost, employers must pay employees half-time pay for all hours lost or for the entire on-call shift during which the employees did not report to work. When the ordinance becomes effective, covered employers will have much less flexibility than they did previously with respect to managing their workforces. The ordinance will also require employers to offer current employees the option to pick up more hours before employers are permitted to hire more staff.

Private Right of Action

The ordinance gives covered employees the right to sue their employers for any violation under the ordinance. Covered employers who violate the ordinance face liability up to three times the amount owed to the employee, in addition to penalties and fines.

What Should Employers Do Now?

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards Enforcement will be responsible for preparing rules to implement the ordinance, so covered employers should watch for the proposed rules. Covered employers should prepare now to comply with the ordinance when it becomes effective in July 2017.