After two long years of planning, advocacy, and negotiations, Chicago City Council has passed the Fair Workweek Ordinance.  The Ordinance protects employees from last minute shift changes and gives low wage earners some predictability in their schedules and, as a result, some degree of financial stability.  This is a huge win for Chicago’s employees and we are excited to see that new Mayor Lori Lightfoot put her support behind the Fair Workweek ordinance and helped usher the bill through to be passed.

You can read the full text here.  Alternatively, here’s what you need to know:

1. Which Industries are Covered by the Fair Workweek Ordinance?

  • Building Services
  • Health Care*
  • Hotels
  • Manufacturing
  • Restaurants
  • Retail
  • Warehouse Services

*This is the first predictable scheduling bill in the country to cover the health care industry and both labor and business advocates are watching closely to see whether the decreased flexibility in scheduling proves manageable.

2. Does the Fair Workweek Ordinance Apply to All Employers?

No.  The Ordinance only applies to employers meeting the following size thresholds:

  • Businesses with at least 100 employees
  • Nonprofit organizations with at least 250 employees
  • Restaurants with at least 30 locations and 250 employees
  • Franchisees with at least 4 locations

3. Which Employees are Protected by the Fair Workweek Ordinance?

The ordinance protects hourly employees who earn $26 per hour or less and salaried employees who earn $50,000 per year or less.

4. What Exactly Does the Fair Workweek Ordinance Require?

Covered employers will have the following obligations:

  • At the time of hire, an employer will have to provide employees with written notice setting out the expected number of hours they will work per week, expected days or shifts on which they will be scheduled, and whether they will be scheduled for “on call” shifts.
  • Starting July 1, 2020, employers will have to give 10 days of advance notice of schedules to protected employees.
  • Then as of July 1, 2022, employers will have to give 14 days of advance notice of schedules to protected employees.
  • If an employer adds hours or shifts with less than the required notice, an employee has a right to decline those additional hours or shifts without penalty.
  • If an employer reduces hours with less than the required notice, it will have to pay a penalty of one hour of the employee’s regular wage.  This is called “predictability pay.”
  • If an employer cancels a shift or reduces an employee’s hours less than 24 hours before that shift is scheduled to start, the employer will have to pay the employee half of what s/he would have earned in the previously scheduled shift.
  • Employers will be required to offer additional hours to part-time, temporary, and/or seasonal employees before hiring new employees.
  • Allows an employee to turn down any shift that would start less than 10 hours after the end of the employee’s previous shift.
  • Requires employers to get written consent from any employee who agrees to work a shift that starts less than 10 hours after the end of the employee’s previous shift.  If the employer fails to get that consent, it has to pay the employee time and a quarter for the shift.
  • Prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their rights under the Fair Workweek Ordinance.
  • Subjects employers to fines for each violation of the Ordinance.

5. Are There Exceptions to the Fair Workweek Ordinance Protections?

As with any hard-fought legislative battle, there are a number of exclusions and exemptions to the obligations set forth above.  Specifically:

  • Employees may still trade shifts with each other and request changes in their schedule.  They will not be forced to give 14 days notice.
  • Employers and employees are allowed to voluntarily agree to shift changes with less than the required notice but must confirm that agreement in writing.
  • Employers with collective bargaining agreements are exempted if those agreements explicitly waive the Fair Workweek protections.
  • Employers are allowed to change schedules in the event of a threat to the employer of if civil authorities recommend that a shift should not begin or continue.
  • Employers may reduce an employee’s hours for disciplinary reasons as long as the incident giving rise to the discipline is documented in writing.
  • Banquet employees’ schedules may be changed with less than the required notice in the event of unforeseen changes in the banquet event’s scheduling, number of attendees, or cancellation which are outside of the employer’s control.
  • Employees who work at ticketed events may have schedule changes with less than the required notice in the event of cancellations, delays, rescheduling, and other changes in the event which are outside of the employer’s control.
  • Manufacturing employers may make shift changes where events outside of their control change their need for employees – including but not limited to customer requests and/or the delayed receipt of materials, etc.
  • Health care employers are allowed to make last minute shift and schedule changes in the event of declared national or state emergencies or if there is an increased need for healthcare services due to severe weather, violence, large public events, or other types of events which are beyond their control.

6. Why Are Fair Workweek Protections Important?

Finally, a couple of notes for folks who might not understand why this new ordinance is so important.  Women Employed reports that more than half of full-time, hourly employees are subject to unreliable schedules and that this unpredictability is most extreme for low-wage workers who are predominantly women (often mothers) of color.  Shift unpredictability make so many aspects of life difficult.

These employees can’t be sure that they will be given enough hours to pay their rent and afford groceries; they can’t be certain they will be able to get to a second job or to classes if they are pursuing a degree; they can’t schedule a doctors appointment for themselves or for their children and have any confidence they’ll be able to get there; they can’t be sure whether they will need (or be able to pay for) regular childcare. In other words an unpredictable schedule has serious and wide-ranging impacts on the well-being of workers and their families.

For all of these reasons, we at The Case Law Firm offer a huge thanks to all of the members of the Chicago Fair Workweek Coalition for the hard work and excellent advocacy that led to this great new employee protection!