New York’s “Fair Workweek” | U.S. Chamber of Commerce

New York’s “Fair Workweek”

As observers of labor policy know, the federal government under the Obama administration was unabashedly aligned with labor unions and other interest groups that advocate for expansive employment regulation.  With the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to reverse many Obama-era policies, those groups must now look somewhere else to push their regulatory agenda.  To that end, they have turned to sympathetic state and local governments, and New York City is a prime example.

As this blog previously reported, in late May, New York City passed a series of new ordinances called the “Fair Workweek” package, which was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is not exactly known for his business-friendly stances.  The legislation will take effect on December 1.

Part of the city’s new legislation requires fast-food employers to allow their employees the option to have contributions for a qualified nonprofit organization—such as a worker center— deducted from their paychecks.  The nonprofit would be responsible for providing certain services and advocating on behalf of its members, though it cannot bargain over terms and conditions of employment with businesses without triggering federal labor law jurisdiction.  

This provision is intended to provide a funding mechanism for worker centers, several of which heretofore have been subsidized by the Service Employees International Union.   How much more of that funding will be made available is open to question, as the union has blown through tens of millions of dollars on worker centers, with little to show for it.

The new ordinances also regulate scheduling for retail establishments with 20 or more employees and fast food establishments with 30 or more establishments nationally.   For retail employees, employers may no longer:

  • schedule “on-call” shifts,
  • cancel an employees’ regular shifts within 72 hours of the scheduled start of the shift,
  • require employees to work with fewer than 72 hours’ notice without written consent, or
  • require employees to contact their employer to confirm their availability for work fewer than 72 hours before the start of the shift.  

For fast food employees, employers will be required to pay a fixed “schedule change premium” between $10 and $75 to each employee whose shift is changed, canceled and/or added on to, depending on the amount of notice provided.   For violations of either of the subsections relating to retail or fast food employees, the affected employee may seek administrative enforcement or pursue a private right of action, with the ordinance allowing for the recovery of attorneys’ fees.  

A separate ordinance that was included in the “Fair Workweek” package, perhaps the first of its kind, requires fast food employers to pay a flat premium of $100 to each employee who is required to work two shifts with less than 11 hours off in between, unless the employee requests or consents to the shifts in writing. 

Businesses operating in New York City have faced multiple regulatory measures that make it more difficult, and expensive, to operate in recent years. The so-called Fair Workweek laws add one more layer of complexity to the mix.  For anyone looking to see what is next on organized labor’s agenda, the Big Apple would be a good place to look.