Mayor DiBlasio Announces Fair Workweek Initiative

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

Earlier this week, we reported on a worker scheduling law implemented by the City of Seattle that required employers to provide employees with a more stable work schedule. Recently, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio sent out an email to many New Yorkers – myself included – in which he announced that achieving similar legislation would be the next step in New York City’s efforts to improve the wages and working conditions of low- and middle-class workers. The Mayor, along with other workers’ rights advocates, declared their general support for “Fair Workweek” legislation and identified three goals for fast-food restaurants in particular: to require employers to set a full schedule two weeks in advance and post it where workers can easily see it; to ensure that employees are appropriately compensated if hours need to be changed on short notice for reasons within the business’ control; and to regulate the practice of “clopenings,” or shifts that require people to work a closing and opening shift with fewer than 10 hours between them.

New York State and City both recently implemented increased minimum wages, with a special increase for fast-food workers. Those wage hikes have gone a long way towards improving the lives of thousands of wage-earners across the state. However, there’s more to a job than just wages, and the Mayor’s new goals are aimed at addressing quality-of-life issues that exist for many low-income fast-food earners.

The first goal is ensuring fast-food workers have access to an advance schedule. Too often, large employers exploit their workers’ flexibility with little to no concern for the effect it has on workers’ lives. For example, many large chains implement “flexible scheduling” policies. While for many white-collar workers, “flexible” means the ability to come in early or leave late to accommodate non-work needs, flexible scheduling for low-wage, blue-collar workers exists to benefit the employer. Through these policies, employers require employees to be available to work, if necessary, but with no guarantee of actually being called in. This means that the worker may have to be available for forty hours of work per week, but only get called in – and therefore paid – for ten or twenty hours. This puts an incredible strain on workers: they have no ability to predict how much they might make from week to week, they have to have family care plans in place which might not be necessary, and they are unable to schedule a second job in their off-time. Requiring set schedules in fast-food restaurants is a positive step, but flexible scheduling is prevalent in other areas, particularly large retail stores.

The Mayor’s other two goals would reduce the more onerous burdens on low-wage employees and compensate them more highly for bearing them. Again, though, implementing these requirements for fast-food restaurants is only the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of additional employees would benefit from these rules, and, once they are in effect, the City should continue to press for workers’ rights for all employees.

If you believe that your employer has violated your rights, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.