On July 1, 2020, the City of Chicago rolled out the Fair Workweek Ordinance, which requires certain employers to provide predictable work schedules to eligible employees and pay additional compensation if the employer subsequently modifies the schedule. The City’s decision to implement the Ordinance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many employers scrambling to determine whether their business is subject to the Ordinance, what employers need to do to comply, and how the Ordinance will be enforced during the ongoing pandemic. What follows is a brief summary of the key elements of the Ordinance that every Chicago employer needs to know:
What Employers are Covered: The Ordinance applies to businesses that employ at least 100 employees globally, at least 50 of whom qualify as covered employees under the Ordinance, and are primarily engaged in one of the following seven industries: (i) Building Services, (ii) Healthcare, (iii) Hotels, (iv) Manufacturing, (v) Restaurants, (vi) Retail, or (vii) Warehouse Services. Non-for-profit organizations must employ at least 250 employees globally to be covered.
What Employees are Covered: To qualify as a covered employee under the Ordinance, the employee must spend the majority of his or her time working in Chicago, be employed by a covered employer, and earn less than $50,000 per year or $26 per hour.
Employer Must Provide Work Schedules in Advance: The Ordinance requires covered employers to provide covered employees with a written estimate of days and hours of work prior to or upon the commencement of employment, and post work schedules at least 10 days in advance.
Modifications to Work Schedules and Increased Payment Obligations: If an employer adjusts the work schedule of an employee within 10 days of the start of the work schedule, whether by adding additional hours, reducing hours, or changing shifts, the employer must compensate the employee with one hour of additional pay for each shift impacted by the employer’s modification to the work schedule.
If the employer reduces an employee’s scheduled hours within 24 hours of the start of the employee’s scheduled shift, the employer must pay the employee at least 50% of the amount that the employee would have earned for the hours that were reduced. If the employer adds additional hours or makes a shift change within 24 hours of the start of the shift, the employer must compensate the impacted employee one additional hour for each shift that was modified.
Right to Refuse to Work Unscheduled Hours or Back-to-Back Shifts: If an employer requests that an employee work unscheduled hours within 10 days of the start of the existing work schedule, the employee has the right to decline the employer’s request. Employees are also entitled to decline a shift that begins less than 10 hours after the end of the prior day’s work shift. If an employee agrees to work the shift, the employer is required to pay the employee 1.25 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.
Exceptions: The Ordinance provides exemptions to employers from its scheduling and payment obligations in various circumstances, including changes to work schedules in response to recommendations of civil authorities, acts of nature, war, threats to public safety (including pandemics), and other unforeseen or calamitous events, or disasters. In addition, employers may be exempt from the certain obligations under the Ordinance if the scheduling change is by agreement between the employer and the employee, or if an employee and co-worker swap hours or shifts by agreement. A list of all qualifying exemptions is set forth in the Ordinance. See Mun. Code Chicago, 1-25-050(d).
COVID-19 Exemption: In the event that COVID-19 has required an employer to materially change its operations resulting in the need to change a work schedule, the employer will be exempt from certain requirements of the Ordinance, including the obligation to pay employees due to changes to the work schedule including reduced or cancelled hours.
Notice Requirements: Covered employees are required to provide all covered employees with a written notice of his or her rights under the Chicago Fair Workweek no later than the employee’s first paycheck. Employers are also required to provide the requisite notice to all existing employees which can be posted in the workplace in common areas or transmitted electronically to employees who work remotely. If an employee is not proficient in English, the notice must be provided in a language in which the employee is proficient.
Enforcement Mechanisms: An employee who believes that a covered employer has violated the Ordinance may file a complaint with the City of Chicago’s Office of Labor Standards which may lead to an investigation and fines. After the Office of Labor Standards closes its file, an employee may bring a civil action alleging a violation of the Ordinance. If successful, the employee may recover any amounts unlawfully withheld in violation of the Ordinance, in addition to reasonable attorneys’ fees, expert witness fees, and costs.
For any questions about this article or about a employment matter you may have, please contact Matt Tyrrell or call (312) 648-2300.
[DISCLAIMER – This information is solely for information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Please contact SFNR with all legal questions.]