Earlier this year, New York City signed into law the “Fair Work Week” legislative package, which aspires to ensure more predictable schedules and paychecks for fast food and retail workers by setting restrictions on how and when their employers can schedule them for work. Those restrictions take effect on November 26th, which will be here before we know it.

The idea is to assist workers who are, as Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “forced to deal with an arbitrary schedule at a job where they still don’t always make ends meet.” The result, however, requires covered employers to make some serious changes.

Among those changes for covered retail employers are:

  • Requiring retail employers to give employees advance notice of their schedules. Specifically, employers must
    • give employees at least 72 hours’ notice before scheduling or canceling a shift;
    • provide employees with a written work schedule and post, in a location accessible and visible to all employees, the work schedule for all employees at that location at least 72 hours before the start of the first shift on the schedule;
    • also transmit the schedule electronically if it regularly uses electronic means to communicate scheduling information;
    • directly notify employees of any schedule changes; and
    • retain copies of work schedules for the previous three years, which the employer must provide to employees upon their request.
  • Prohibiting the practice of “on-call” scheduling, meaning that retail employees can no longer be required to call their workplace or wait to be contacted by the employer less than 72 hours before a shift to find out whether they will need to come in to work that day.

Among those changes for covered fast food employers are:

  • Providing new hires with a “good faith” written estimate of the employee’s weekly hours for the duration of his/her employment and the expected dates, times and locations of those hours, and providing updated good faith estimates as soon as possible after long-term or indefinite changes occur.
  • Providing employees with at least seven-day work schedules (including anticipated regular shifts and on-call shifts) at least 14 days in advance. If the employer changes a work schedule, it must update the schedule within 24 hours and provide the revised written schedule to the employee – although an employee may refuse to work additional hours that were not included in the original schedule. Also, schedule changes with less than 14 days’ notice must be compensated and entitle the affected employee to a “schedule change premium” of $10 to $75, in addition to their regular wages, as compensation for schedule changes such as canceling, shortening, rescheduling or adding shifts.
  • Prohibiting a fast food employer from requiring an employee to work two shifts that span two days but are less than 11 hours apart without compensating the employee $100 in addition to their regular earned wages, unless the employee either requests or consents to these work hours in writing.
  • Requiring that when a fast food employer needs shift coverage, the employer offer available shifts to current employees before hiring new workers. The law also requires an employer to notify its employees of the available shifts, and it provides what this type of notice must contain. Only after the employer satisfies the posting requirements specified in the law, if existing employees (first at that location and then at other locations) decline the additional shifts or if the employer would be required to pay the existing employees overtime for the additional work, may the employer then hire additional employees.

Other provisions of the Fair Work Week law include allowing fast food employees to make voluntary contributions to a nonprofit organization through payroll deductions, prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the Fair Work Week law, and establishing notice and record-keeping requirements for covered employers.