By Dan Whitehead
May. 18, 2021
Over the past five years, the United States has seen a wave of new predictive scheduling laws aimed at providing employees with more predictable work schedules.
These predictive scheduling laws are designed to provide stability to individuals so that they can attend to their child care, health, education and, in many cases, second jobs. Early predictive scheduling laws only applied to retail establishments and restaurants, with limited penalties and no private right of action (i.e. employees could not sue for violations of the law).
However, more recent predictive scheduling laws cover a much broader array of industries, with far more draconian penalties, and allow for employee-initiated class action litigation. While these laws are well intentioned, they do present significant challenges for employers in terms of staffing, costs, document retention and general compliance.
This is because the legislation is relatively new and varies by city. Moreover, these laws often require dramatic departures from historical hiring and scheduling practices. The result is a patchwork of new laws, with limited guiding precedent and substantial penalties for noncompliance. As an employer, you would do well to heed these laws and take appropriate steps to ensure you are compliant.
Many jurisdictions have considered, or are considering, passing predictive scheduling laws. So far, two states — Vermont and Oregon — and eight municipalities — San Francisco, Berkeley, Emeryville, San Jose, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia — have passed laws. The laws in these jurisdictions are similar but different enough to discourage larger employers from creating company-wide policies and procedures for national compliance. Looking at 2021 and beyond, that list is likely to grow. Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island all have predictive scheduling laws or equivalents under consideration.
Though most laws require employers to pay their employees predictability pay when their schedules are changed without advance notice, many laws contain different requirements regarding the amount of predictability pay owed, as well as exceptions to predictability pay entitlement. Accordingly, the differences in predictive scheduling laws not only require different scheduling policies, they require tailored and distinct payroll practices as well. Failure to properly pay employees under predictability pay rules can create federal and state wage and hour exposure as well.
It is also worth noting that some states have gone in the opposite direction, prohibiting the use of predictive scheduling legislation. Since 2017 Tennessee, Georgia, Iowa and Arkansas have all made it illegal for local government to require employers to adopt scheduling or hiring practices other than those already required by federal law.
While predictive scheduling laws from many of the jurisdictions contain several nuanced differences, there are general requirements that are common to many of them.
Though not common, some jurisdictions, such as Seattle and Philadelphia, encouraged employers to engage in an “interactive process” with employees who request a modification to their work schedules. Notably, this idea of an “interactive scheduling process” is one that has endured and presents additional managerial burdens for employers.
If you run a business that is affected by predictive scheduling laws, or think that it may become a reality in your state soon, then it’s easy to look at these new requirements and only see the additional administrative burden. There are benefits to businesses, however.
Academic research has shown that employees with stable, predictable schedules are happier, healthier and more likely to stay with their employer for the long term. You can also mitigate many of the requirements of predictive scheduling by using labor compliance software from Workforce.com to manage your employees. Not only does it handle the collection and auditing of shift data, it can keep track of relevant labor legislation and automatically warn you if any of your workers’ shifts are in breach of the law wherever you operate. So don’t be afraid of predictive scheduling. It’s easier to comply with than you think, and can make your business run more smoothly.
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