United States: Philadelphia Passes Fair Workweek Employment Standards For Retail, Hospitality, And Food Service Establishments

Last Updated: January 10 2019
Article by Donald D. Gamburg

Philadelphia enters the predictive scheduling mix with its newly signed Fair Workweek Employment Standards Ordinance, which will become effective January 1, 2020. Signed by Mayor Jim Kenney on December 20, 2018, the new law targets the scheduling of employees in the retail, hospitality, and food service industries only. Within those industries, the focus of the new law is on large employers with 250 or more employees and 30 or more locations worldwide. Philadelphia is now the fifth city with such a predictive scheduling law, joining Emeryville (California), New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle, as well as the state of Oregon. With much left to be established by an agency not yet identified or established by the ordinance, here are the key provisions of the new law so that covered employers may ready themselves over the course of 2019.

Coverage

The new law applies to covered employers in the retail, hospitality, and food service industries only. A covered employer must have 250 or more employees (full-time, part-time, or temporary) and have 30 or more locations worldwide. Franchisees under separate ownership but part of the same chain business are grouped together for determining the number of employees and locations to meet the law's minimum thresholds.

Notice and Posting Requirements

A covered employer is required to provide each new hire a written, good-faith estimate of his or her work schedule. This good-faith estimate must contain (i) the average number of work hours the employee can expect to work each week over a typical 90-day period; (ii) whether the employee can expect to work any on-call shifts; and (iii) a subset of days and times or shifts that the employee can typically expect to work (or days and times or shifts on which the employee will not be scheduled to work). On or before the commencement of employment, an employer must provide the newly hired employee with a written work schedule that runs through the last date of the currently posted schedule.

Written notice of the work schedule must be posted in a conspicuous and accessible location where employee notices are customarily posted. The schedule must include the employee's shifts at that worksite and whether or not he or she is scheduled to work or be on call that week. The schedule must be posted no later than 10 days before the first day of any new schedule in 2020, and no later than 14 days before the first day of any new schedule in 2021.

An employer must provide notice of any proposed changes to the work schedule as promptly as possible and prior to the change taking effect, with the written work schedule itself being revised within 24 hours of making the change. Employees may decline to work any hours or additional shifts not included in the posted work schedule. However, employees may consent to work such hours or shifts, provided such consent is recorded by written communication.

As with most employment laws, the new law requires a notice prepared or approved by the enforcing agency to be posted by the employer setting forth the rights and privileges provided by the law, stating that retaliation against employees for exercising such rights is prohibited, and providing such other information as the agency may require.

Predictability Pay

An employee who works hours not included in the new employment notice or subsequent posted work schedule is entitled to predictability pay in addition to his or her regular pay for hours actually worked. When the employer's change in hours does not result in lost hours, the predictability pay will be one hour of pay at the employee's regular rate of pay. When the employer's change results in hours being subtracted or a shift or shifts being cancelled, the predictability pay will be no less than one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay per hour for any hours he or she does not work.

The law specifies that an employee will not be paid predictability pay when (i) the employee him- or herself requests a shift change in writing; (ii) a schedule change arises from a mutually agreed-upon shift trade between employees; (iii) the employer's operations are interrupted by threats to employees or property, failure of a public utility, the shutdown of public transportation, natural disaster, a declared state of emergency, or severe weather conditions; (iv) a de minimis 20 minutes or less change exists for beginning or ending a scheduled shift; (v) an employee volunteers to work additional hours in response to a mass written communication from the employer about the availability of additional hours; (vi) hours are subtracted due to a termination of employment or for other disciplinary reasons; (vii) changes are made to the posted work schedule within 24 hours of the required advance notice; or (viii) changes are required for a ticketed event or hotel banquet event outside the employer's control.

Rest Between Work Shifts

An employee may decline any work hours that are scheduled or otherwise occur less than nine hours after the end of the previous day's shift or during the nine hours following the end of a shift that spans two days.

Offer of Work to Existing Employees

Philadelphia's new law requires work shifts to be offered to existing employees before hiring new employees. The employer must provide written notice of available work shifts for at least 72 hours, unless a shorter period is necessary in order for the work to be timely performed. The notice must be posted similar to other employer notices under the new law, and it must contain the following information: a description of the position and its required qualifications, the schedule of available shifts, the length of time the employer anticipates requiring coverage of the additional hours, and the process by which employees may notify the employer of their desire to work the offered shifts. With some limitations, the employer may assign the work to those existing employees qualified to perform the work, as determined by the employer in good faith. The law's requirement to offer work to existing employees first does not, however, require employers to do so if premium pay would be required under state or federal law.

Recordkeeping

Employers must retain records demonstrating compliance with the law for a period of two years. Further, upon request by any employee, the employer must provide that employee with work schedules in writing for all employees at the location for any previous week for the past two years, including the originally posted work schedules and any modified versions.

Enforcement

As with most employment laws, this new law protects employees from retaliation. But its retaliation provision makes clear that it extends to any person who mistakenly, but in good faith, alleges such a violation of the law. Further, the law creates a rebuttable presumption of retaliation for any adverse action against an employee within 90 days of the employee's exercise of rights protected by the law.

An employee or any other person may file a complaint for violations of the law with the agency to be specified by the mayor. The complaint must be filed within two years of the date the person knew or should have known of the alleged violation. Separately, any person may file a complaint in a court of competent jurisdiction within the same two-year limitations period. Exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required. Presumably, unions and business competitors fall within the meaning of "other persons" under the enforcement mechanism of this law.

The remedies available under the new law include actual wages and benefits lost; liquidated damages in an amount equal to actual damages, up to a maximum of $2,000; and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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