Seattle puts restrictions on restaurant scheduling, hiring

restaurant work schedule

Large restaurant companies will be required to finalize Seattle employees’ labor schedules at least two weeks in advance and pay penalties for changes afterward under a law unanimously passed Monday by the Seattle City Council.

The measure also requires companies with at least 500 employees nationwide to increase the hours of people already on the payroll before new hires are added to the staff.

In addition, employees who work the last shift of a restaurant’s work day will be required to be given at least 10 hours off before they are expected to report back to work.

The vote makes Seattle the second city, after San Francisco, to adopt a so-called secure scheduling law. Last week, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio proposed that his charge become the third.

The measures share many of the same requirements, a reflection of the concerted effort by organized labor to get the scheduling laws on the book.

Work schedules must be set at least two weeks before a shift. If hours are cut between that point and shift time, the employee must be paid half of what he or she would have earned without the change. If hours are increased, the staff member is paid for the hours worked, plus the wages for one additional hour.

Employees, however, can request a reduction in hours without penalty. They can also swap shifts.

If hours are added to a shift and the scheduled employee does not want that additional time, the employer can offer the hours to the rest of the stuff, and will not pay a penalty if a volunteer steps forward.

Employees who are told upfront that they may or may not be needed for a shift, and are instructed to stand by until they hear one way or the other, are entitled to half pay for the time they would have worked if called.

The requirements will initially apply only to companies with at least 500 employees worldwide. Full-service chains with a payroll of that size will still be exempted if they have fewer than 40 locations.

Lawmakers noted that the measure will be studied, with an eye toward modifying the stipulations in two years.

A start date for the new requirements was not posted on the City Council’s website as of Monday afternoon.

Secure-scheduling laws are intended to provide more predictability and regularity in the income of hourly workers. They are opposed by restaurateurs and other employers because they end the convention of allowing the business to adjust on short notice to changes in customer traffic levels.

The Seattle measure was passed despite opposition from a group of employees of full-service restaurants. Members of the Full Service Workers Alliance had expressed fears that the final upshot of the bill might be tighter schedules that leave them with fewer hours.

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