Proposed City of Olympia Minimum Wage Ordinance: Part 3—Restrictions on Shift Scheduling

Oct 28, 2015

Shift scheduling is emerging as another battleground issue when it comes to how much discretion employers should have to run their business.  Part 3 of the five part series on the proposed “City of Olympia Minimum Wage Ordinance,” covers the three prongs of restrictions and regulations the ordinance would place on Olympia employers when scheduling their workers.

First, employers could not schedule workers in shifts less than 11 hours apart.  Employees would have to give their written permission to work any hours less than 11 hours after the end of the previous day’s shift or during the 11 hours following the end of a shift that spanned two days.  Workers who agree to such shifts must be paid time and a half for any hours worked that are less than 11 hours following the end of a previous shift.

Second, employers would be required to give workers their individual work or on-call schedule in writing at least 21 days prior to the first day of that work schedule, and these schedules must be clearly posted in the workplace.  Workers must be apprised of any subsequent changes to the advance schedule within 24 hours of the change being made.  Workers may refuse to work any hours not included in the 21-day advance written work schedule.  For new hires, employers must provide a written estimate of the number of hours and the days and times the employee is expected to work or be on call each week.  New hires must also be given a written work schedule for their first 21 days.

The third prong would require employers to pay workers who do agree to work hours added after the 21-day advance notice one hour of “predictability pay,” at their regular rate, for each shift changed, in addition to the hours they work.  The worker would also be required to give their written consent to work those hours.

The same “predictability pay” would be owed to workers for every shift reduced, cancelled or changed in any way after the 21-day window.  Even simply changing the start or end time of a shift would require one hour of “predictability pay.” 

If the employer cancels a scheduled work or on-call shift or reduces the hours of a shift with less than 24 hours notice, a penalty greater than “predictability pay” would be triggered.  In such cases, the employer must pay the worker a minimum of four hours at their regular rate of pay.  So if a worker shows up for a shift and is sent home early due to lack of work, they must be paid for a minimum of four hours of work.

These regulations would eliminate the flexibility employers need to schedule workers to fit the needs of their business.  The labor needs of a business can change daily, and employers rely on scheduling systems that allow them to quickly modify employee schedules to fit their current labor needs. Worse, requiring employers to provide workers with their work schedule 21 days in advance or pay penalties such as time and half and “predictability pay” makes it more difficult and costly for employers to respond to schedule changes that are the result of employees who call in sick or leave a shift early due to illness.

You can read about other provisions of the ordinance in Part 1Part 2Part 4 and Part 5 of this series. Part 1 details the “$15 Minimum Wage” provision, Part 2 covers the “Promoting Full Time Employment” provision, Part 4 analyzes the “Paid Sick Leave” provision of the ordinance, and Part 5 explores the  “Enforcement” provisions of the new laws.