In May of 2017, NYC Mayor de Blasio signed a bill, widely known as the Fair Workweek Law, that made New York the largest city in the USA with laws granting retail and fast-food employees more predictable and reasonable work schedules.


The Fair Workweek Law was enacted to help workers in New York City and make it easier for them to plan their lives around education, childcare and multiple jobs. The aim was to end abusive scheduling practices so that retail and fast food workers could have more predictable schedules and paychecks.


These types of workers in the service industry would previously be given highly undesirable hours and be asked to come in at the last minute. They would have to adjust to a different schedule each week and they were often asked to work a shift that required closing down the establishment one evening and then opening it up only a few hours later the following morning.


What Does the Fair Workweek Law Mandate?

Some of the most important aspects of the Fair Workweek Law include:


  • On-call scheduling for retail and fast-food workers is banned.


  • Employers must give their workers not less than 72 hours notice of their work schedules.


  • Employers are prohibited from canceling any regular shift for employees within 72 hours of the scheduled start of the shift.


  • Workers must receive notice of changes to their schedules at least two weeks in advance.


  • Workers cannot perform shifts with less than an 11 hour gap between them.


  • Workers must be paid premiums for changes made to their schedules of more than 15 minutes.


  • Part time workers must be offered the chance to take full-time roles when they become available before new workers are brought in.


  • Fast food workers must be allowed to make voluntary contributions to charity organizations (other than unions) of their choice by means of payroll deductions.


No More “Clopening” Shifts

A “clopening” shift is when a fast food worker is required to work the late closing shift one evening, then return early the next morning to work the opening shift. This tends to happen a lot in the fast food and service industries. Often these businesses have high turnover of employees and as a result they are left with only a few workers who are experienced enough to close down and lock up the establishment at night and open it back up again in the morning.


The Fair Workweek Law prohibits employers from scheduling their workers on these types of shifts. The rule requires that there be at least 11 hours between when one shift ends and another starts. This applies whether the shift ends the previous day or spans a total of two calendar days.


For example, if an employee is scheduled to close at a retail shop at midnight, they will not be allowed to start working again before 11am the next morning. In some cases the employee can consent to working these types of shifts, but the fast food employer must pay $100 extra whenever an employee is required to work such shifts.


Clopening shifts can be incredibly difficult and tiring for employees, as they don’t get enough time to rest between shifts. When you factor in the time spent commuting home, showering, changing clothes and eating, employees barely have enough time between these shifts to get a full night’s sleep. It can also be difficult for workers to plan for childcare, further their education or obtain additional employment.


Exhausted employees are more likely to make mistakes on the job and suffer from the health effects of sleep deprivation such as lowered immune system functioning and increased risk of depression. In fields such as construction or nursing, mistakes caused by sleep deprivation can have serious consequences – such as injuries or harm to patients.


This type of law has already been in practice in the European Union, which has a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24 hour period.


How can employers avoid scheduling their employees on “clopening” shifts? It can be very helpful to use time tracking software which can be designed to warn managers when an added shift would violate the mandatory rest period.


Premiums Paid for Changing Shifts

Under the new laws, fast food employers must provide an estimate in writing that sets forth the number of hours that the employee will be working per week for the duration of their employment. This means that the shifts must be relatively consistent and not dramatically different week to week. This is a huge advantage for workers, who often struggle to budget their finances when they don’t have a reliable number of paid hours per week.


If this work schedule changes, the employer must provide at least 14 days notice. The law also specifies that employers must pay a premium ranging from $10 to $20 for each change to the work schedule made by the employer within 7-14 days notice.


If the employer makes changes to the employee’s work schedule with less than 7 days notice, they must pay a premium ranging from $15 to $45. If the changes are made with less than 24 hours notice, the employer must be paid a premium of $75.


So, under this law it is possible for the employer to change an employee’s schedule and require them to come into work at the last minute – but they will need to pay them these extra premiums for any inconvenience caused.


A Trend Towards a Fairer Workweek

Modern businesses are striving to serve their customers better by staying open later, but this doesn’t mean that they can require their employees to work unreasonable hours.


New York is one of the many cities that have passed laws recently that change the way that retail and fast food employers can schedule shifts. For example, the City of San Francisco made ordinances effective in 2015 that regulated hours and scheduling in this way.


The City of Seattle, the City of San Jose and several other locations have also passed similar legislation in recent years. Of course, not everyone is in agreement with the laws. For example, the New York State Restaurant Association says that they will raise costs and cause additional record keeping for businesses.


This is true – the Fair Workweek Law does present more of a scheduling, time tracking and record keeping challenge for businesses. Fortunately, timekeeping apps and technology make it easier than ever to stay compliant with these laws.


What Do Employers Need to Know?

If you are a New York employer, how can you be compliant with the new Fair Workweek Laws in your business? Here are some important things to keep in mind:


  • First of all, you must cease any on call shifts for retail employees.


  • “Clopening” shifts are no longer allowed. The employee must have at least 11 hours off between the end of their shift and the start of their next shift.


  • Notice of any shift changes must be communicated as early as possible with workers.


  • If you must change a shift with less than two weeks notice, you must pay the appropriate premium to the employee.


  • You may only hire additional workers when you have given your existing staff the chance to turn down the open shifts. (This law allows part-time workers a chance for additional hours if they want them.)


  • Your employees have the right to ask you to deduct part of their salary and donate it to a non-profit of their choice.


  • It is also very important to train all of your managers and supervisors so that they are knowledgeable about how the Fair Workweek Law applies to setting work schedules.


  • Review your timekeeping systems and scheduling practices under the guidelines of the new rules to make sure they are compliant.