Staffing Management

Predictive scheduling laws: What they cover and how to comply

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.

Where have predictive scheduling laws been passed?

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.

What do predictive scheduling laws require?

While predictive scheduling laws from many of the jurisdictions contain several nuanced differences, there are general requirements that are common to many of them.

  • Advance notice of work schedule, generally at least 14 days.
  • A written estimate of each employee’s anticipated work schedule (at the time of hire).
  • Predictability pay in the absence of sufficient advance notice of work schedule.
  • Exceptions to eligibility for predictability pay.
  • A right to rest requirement to prevent “clopening” (i.e. no employee should be required to close up at night and open up the next day), as well as amplified pay for close-in-time work shifts.
  • Offers of additional hours to current part-time employees before hiring a new employee.
  • Posting requirements.
  • Stringent documentation and document retention requirements. This generally includes work schedules, written scheduling estimates, documents evidencing predictability pay, and documents related to offers of additional hours.

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.

How to comply with predictive scheduling law

  1. Determine applicability. Employers operating in a jurisdiction with a predictive scheduling law in place should first determine whether they qualify as a “covered employer” under the applicable law. While many laws only apply to certain employers in the restaurant and retail industries, other laws have a more expansive definition of “covered employer.”
  2. Create policies and forms. Once an employer determines that it is covered, it should develop policies and forms tailored to each applicable law. Sample forms that would be helpful to have on hand include, but are not limited to: a notice of change in work schedule, a notice of offer of additional hours, an estimate of work schedule and hours, and a template work schedule. Additionally, employers should consider maintaining working checklists that managers can use to ensure compliance.
  3. Train managers. Once the policies and forms are prepared, employers should train their managers on the applicable laws, as they will largely be responsible for facilitating and documenting compliance.
  4. Ensure proper data maintenance. Because compliance with predictive scheduling laws requires retention of a high volume of documents, employers should ensure they have proper mechanisms in place for storing documents and data.
  5. Audit for compliance. In order to ensure compliance with any applicable predictive scheduling laws, employers should periodically conduct internal audits to ensure policies are being followed and documents retained.
  6. Use technology to predict staffing needs. In order to avoid predictability pay, employers may want to use technology and data analytics provided by software such as Workforce.com to anticipate future staffing needs. Setting schedules based on reliable data may decrease the need for unanticipated scheduling changes and thus reduce the likelihood of predictability pay.
Predict staffing requirements
Workforce can track your wage costs against your income over time and automatically recommend
the best staff schedules based on predicted demand.

Predictive scheduling compliance doesn’t need to be a problem

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.

About Workforce.com

blog workforce

We build robust scheduling & attendance software for businesses with 500+ frontline workers. With custom BI reporting and demand-driven scheduling, we help our customers reduce labor spend and increase profitability across their business. It's as simple as that.

Book a call
See the software

Related Articles

workforce blog

HR Administration

Rest and lunch break laws in every US state

Summary Federal law does not require meal or rest breaks Some states have laws requiring meal and rest ...

workforce blog

Staffing Management

What is labor forecasting?

Summary Labor forecasting helps businesses determine where, when, what kind, and how many employees are...

demand forecasting, labor forecasting, labor modeling, staffing

workforce blog

Staffing Management

How staffing agencies can better manage a remote workforce

Summary As remote work continues its rise, modern workforce management technology is being adopted – st...

remote employees, scheduling, staffing, time and attendance management