Requirements of Seattle’s Secure Scheduling Ordinance
In 2017, Seattle’s Secure Scheduling ordinance took effect, requiring certain retail and restaurant employers to provide employees with more information and advance notice regarding their work schedules. The ordinance applies only to employers with at least 500 employees (whether in Seattle or not) and, for restaurants, at least 40 locations (anywhere as long as one is in Seattle). Some of the ordinance’s key provisions are discussed below.
Under the ordinance, covered employers must now provide employees with work schedules at least 14 days in advance. The schedule must be posted for all employees to see and should include scheduled hours and on-call shifts where appropriate. If a schedule is then modified, the employer cannot require an employee to accept additional hours beyond those previously posted. If an employee does agree to work additional hours, the employer must provide one extra hour of pay for each change that extends an existing shift or adds a new shift. When a shift length is reduced, the employee must be paid for half of each subtracted hour. Further, when employees scheduled for an on-call shift are not called into work they must receive 50% of what would have been paid had they worked.
There are several exceptions, including, for example when an employee calls in sick and other employees are offered that shift.
Employers must offer additional scheduled hours to existing employees before hiring new employees. This does not apply, though, if the additional hours would require paying overtime.
Upon hire, new employees must receive a written estimate of their expected weekly hours. Existing employees must receive a revised estimate at least annually. If actual hours deviate significantly from these estimates, the employer must initiate a dialogue with the affected employee(s) and provide a valid business reason if one exists.
When employees request scheduling changes employers may respond as they see fit (except as otherwise prohibited by law), unless the change is due to a “major life event,” in which case the employer must grant the change unless it can provide a valid business reason, in writing, for denying the request. Major life events include health issues, care-giving responsibilities, certain educational programs, transportation and housing changes, and requirements relating to jobs and employee might hold with another employer.
In addition, absent their consent, employees cannot be scheduled to work a shift that starts fewer than 10 hours from when their prior shift ended. If an employee does consent, the employer must pay time-and-a-half for all hours worked within that 10-hour window of time between shifts.
Finally, employers must maintain records for three years showing compliance with the ordinance, including estimated work hours, reasons for denying schedule changes, notices of available hours and records of employees who opted out of receiving notice of available hours. This is not a complete list, and the records requirements may be modified by the Director of the Office of Labor Standards. If records are not maintained for three years this creates a presumption the employer violated the ordinance throughout any unrecorded period.
This ordinance is part of Seattle’s efforts to fight income inequality, as “increased wages will not help decrease the income inequality gap if employees cannot work sufficient hours to support themselves and their dependents or know what hours and therefore what income they can count on that week.” Nonetheless, the ordinance imposes significant restrictions on covered employers and such employers must adjust their business practices accordingly to meet the ordinance’s requirements.