Employment and labor laws define the extent to which employers can ask employees to work. In the aftermath of COVID-19, there have been significant changes in the work schedule laws. Employers must now comply with ever-changing federal, state, and agency regulations at the earliest. This article presents an in-depth understanding of work schedule laws.

New Normal, New Laws

The advent of COVID-19 upended the normal functioning of day-to-day lives. It posed grave challenges to organizations nationwide that require an evolution from pre-existing rules and regulations. The federal government continued to analyze the impact of the pandemic at different stages for a strong response. New work schedule laws subsequently came into force.

Not every job runs on a 9-to-5 basis. Some are mission-critical and run round the clock, such as jobs in manufacturing, healthcare, public safety. The HR departments associated with these sectors had to work hard to adapt to the new laws. Putting COVID-19 regulations into place ensured a safe workplace environment for employees. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration revised its COVID-19 FAQ page to help employers safeguard their workplace. Agencies worked on their toes to ensure the safety of citizens. They frequently shared valuable resources for maximum compliance with rules and regulations. 

Here are a few resources to help incorporate COVID-19 compliant rules at the workplace:

These resources carry instructions, guidelines, and safety standards to be followed by every employer in the nation. The aim is to save maximum lives while carrying on with business. 

What Are Predictive Scheduling Laws?

Although The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers to change the work schedule of anyone over 16 years of age without prior intimation or consent, it is not the right thing to do. Frequent changes may negatively impact employee relations. There is a rule to prevent such situations.

Predictive Schedule Laws or ‘Fair Workweek’ Laws are in effect to add stability to employees’ lives by promoting fairer scheduling practices. The law refrains employers from asking employees to work without prior intimation up to 10 days in advance. Employers need to provide a change of hours letter to employees or they’re liable to face a penalty.

Employee work schedule laws are still new and will continue to evolve in the coming years. However, the fundamental idea is to promote fair scheduling practices to ensure work satisfaction among employees.

Here are some notable points of the fair workweek laws. Employers need to: 

  • Provide an honest estimation of likely working hours upon hiring
  • Have a break between shifts
  • Offer predictable pay in case of delayed notice of schedule change at work
  • Give their employees the right to decline modifications to the schedule
  • Allow employees to choose existing shifts available beyond the deadline
  • Employees’ written consent and pay premiums for “Clopenings” (where employees work two shifts separated by less than 11 hours over two calendar days)
  • Keep a comprehensive schedule record

The way state governments approach these predictive scheduling laws may differ. However, employers need to comply with them if they violate the 10-day rule. Also, the 10-day rule may increase to 14 days in 2022.

Let us dig deeper into Fair Workweek Laws.

You may also read: The Ultimate Guide to Employee Scheduling

The Rise Of Predictive Scheduling Laws

While unpredictable events outside work may make us happy, it becomes stressful at work. On-call shifts and just-in-time scheduling goes a long way in causing stress to the U.S. citizens working at retail and food chains. 

A report suggested that workers at food and retail chains received notifications of their upcoming shifts within seven days. Personal lives go for a toss due to such sudden schedule planning. The unpredictability may go on for days or months. Its influence isn’t just restricted to work-life but even beyond it.

The need for labor laws on schedule changes was inevitable. Hence, fair workweek laws came into effect. On January 1, 2021, Chicago became the first major American city to enforce the new rules. New York followed the footsteps of Chicago by strengthening its Fair Workweek legislation to shield fast-food workers against a sudden dip in shift volume.

Other states are also looking to implement the new work schedule laws after learning from the experiences of these cities. Currently, Oregon is the only state to enforce predictive scheduling laws statewide.

Predictive Scheduling Laws by State

Seattle, WA

Applies to retail and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) with over 500 employees worldwide and full-service restaurants with 40+ locations and 40+ employees worldwide.

San Francisco, CA

Applicable on chain stores employing more than 20 people and running 40+ stores worldwide.

New York, NY

Applicable to fast food companies running at 20+ locations nationwide and retailers with 20+ sellers.

Chicago, IL

Applies to companies with 50+ covered employees (earning $26/hour or $50,000/year or less) and 100+ employees worldwide in retail, healthcare, hotels, manufacturing, building, and warehouse services, 250+ employees worldwide at nonprofits, and 250+ employees and 30+ locations worldwide at restaurants.

Philadelphia, PA

The law applies to retail, hospitality, and foodservice companies employing more than 250 people and running at 30+ locations worldwide.

Emeryville, CA

Applies to retail or fast food companies with 56+ employees worldwide and 20+ employees locally.

Among these cities, Chicago and Philadelphia currently follow a 10-day notice of schedules. New York, Emeryville, San Francisco, and Seattle follow a 14-day rule. 

Oregon State is following a 7-day notice currently.

Iowa, Arkansas, Georgia, and Tennessee have prohibited local governments from passing new work schedule laws. 

You may also read: 10 Types of Leaves to Include in Your Leave Policy

Staying Compliant With The New Predictive Work Schedule Laws

The clamor to legitimize predictive work schedule laws is growing at the federal level. As a result, sooner or later, companies have to comply with the new rules.

An intelligent move would be to have a system that offers efficient schedule planning to do away with the shortage of staff and high labor costs. The practice of digital record-keeping may come in handy.

These steps can save businesses from paying “predictability pay” for schedule changes and on-call shifts due to poor planning. 

Let us look at other potential after-effects of non-compliance:

  • The work schedule laws in California (San Francisco) allow employers to pay the employee a premium of 1 to 4 hours of pay at the employee’s regular hourly rate if the schedule change is less than seven days before the shift.
  • In New York, the premium is $200 for fast food employers and $300 for retailers.
  • New York also requires retail employers to pay employees either $500 or damages (whichever is higher) for on-call shifts or shift changes with less than 72 hours’ notice.

Non-compliance with work schedule laws comes with a heavy price. Therefore, putting a proper system in place to plan shifts well in advance is inevitable for businesses.

California Employment Laws In 2021

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the California State government to pass new employment and work schedule laws in 2020. Businesses running their operations in California must now pay heed to the new rules to avoid any negative impact.

Highlights of these new employment and work schedule laws are as follows:

AB 685

Employers must take prompt action to tackle COVID-19 incidents at their workplace. Employers must provide a written notice to all employees who “may have been exposed” at the worksite.

AB 1867

Employers with more than 500 employees nationally should provide California employees with COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

AB 2017

Employees can designate paid sick leave to care for a sick family member.

AB 2399

This provides an expansion of California State Paid Family Leave benefits. Employees can take a leave to care for a family member who is sick or for baby bonding.

AB 2992

It expanded protections to employees who are victims of crime or abuse.

SB 973

Employers with more than 100 employees are obligated to submit specified wage information annually to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). 

SB 1159

Employers must include COVID-19 illness in compensable workplace injuries, and employees become entitled to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits. The presumption is rebuttable with proper evidence.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

As per the new law, small businesses with five or more employees will now have to provide an eligible California employee with a protected family and medical leave of up to 12 workweeks. The law was earlier applicable to employers with 50 or more employees.

California’s Work Schedule Laws and Hours

The new employment and work schedule laws also include a provision to increase minimum wages and thresholds over which overtime laws do not apply to employees. It can be better understood with the table below:

No. Of Employees Minimum Wage Annual Salary Threshold For Exemption From Overtime Laws
25 or less $13/hour $54,080 (earlier ($49,920)
26 or more $14/hour $58,240 (earlier $54,080)

These laws were enacted by the California State Government and came into effect on January 1, 2021. The new labor, employment work schedule laws and regulations governing COVID-19 at the workplace, and the decision to increase the minimum wage and overtime-exempt salary thresholds will paint California’s image as an employee-friendly state.

You may also read: The Complete Guide to Shift Management That Actually Works!

Key Takeaways:

  • COVID-19 has exacerbated the need for revamping employment laws across the nation.
  • Predictive scheduling laws add to employees’ stability and help them maintain a decent work-life balance.
  • Labor laws to prevent frequent schedule changes are now in place in cities across the country.
  • Non-compliance with these new work schedule laws comes at a cost.
  • The California Legislature and California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) have passed new rules to ensure the safety and security of employees. These have come into effect since the start of 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Work Schedule Laws

Can my employer make me work without pay?

No. As per federal law, employers need to compensate you for the working hours.

Can an employer change your pay without notice?

Yes. The employment-at-will clause allows employers to change pay without prior information.

Can an employer cut your hours as punishment?

Yes. Unless it is a mutually agreed contract, the employer can reduce hours for any reason or even without any reason.

Can my employer change my schedule last minute?

Yes. Since the FLSA doesn’t mention work schedule laws, employers can change working hours as and when they deem fit. However, several states are now implementing fair workweek laws.

Can my employer force me to change my shift?

Yes, the employment-at-will clause enables employers to ask you to work in any shift.

Can an employer make you work overtime without notice?

Yes, employers can ask you to work overtime but have to pay the appropriate overtime rate.

Can an employer change your schedule without notifying you?

Yes, the U.S. the Department of Labor states that an employer may change an employee’s work hours without prior notice or consent.

Can an employer take away hours already worked?

No, as per the FLSA, employers must keep a record of hours worked and wages paid to the employees.

Can an employer change your work schedule?

Yes, the FLSA does not mention anything about work schedule laws, hence it is feasible. 

How long can an employer keep you at work?

It depends on the sole discretion of the employer. There are instances when the employer can ask employees to work overtime. 

Can an employer change your timesheet without employee knowledge?

Yes, the FLSA allows an employer to make changes to the timesheet without prior notice to employees.

Change is the only constant. While FLSA has no special mention of work schedule laws, predictive scheduling laws are a welcome move. Employers cannot ask workers to do on-call shifts in several cities now. The long-term effect of this act translates into better employee relations and a healthy work-life balance for employees.

AttendanceBot can help you to plan employee schedules and alert them of the upcoming shifts on your team collaboration platform. With simple messages, your employees can be reminded of their upcoming shifts.