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The High Stakes of Fair Workweek Compliance for Grocers

Key provisions, challenges and best practices in this emerging area of law
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Fair Workweek laws aim to protect workers from unpredictable schedules and provide them with stability and predictability in their work lives.

The grocery industry has been witnessing a wave of Fair Workweek laws that aim to protect workers from unpredictable schedules and provide them with stability and predictability in their work lives. Grocery store owners and managers must understand and comply with these regulations to avoid potential legal pitfalls.

Fair Workweek laws require employers to provide employees with advance notice of their work schedules and compensate them for last-minute changes or cancellations. These laws typically apply to industries with high levels of part-time, hourly and shift-based workers, such as the grocery, retail and foodservice industries.

Fair Workweek laws have been gaining momentum. A number of cities and states have been implementing their own versions of these regulations. Jurisdictions such as New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia and the state of Oregon have enacted fair workweek laws, each with its own set of requirements and provisions.

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The consequences of non-compliance extend beyond regulatory penalties and operational disruptions, potentially leading to costly class action lawsuits. These lawsuits can result in substantial financial exposure for businesses, with settlements reaching into the millions. 

Given the potential magnitude of these legal risks, business owners and managers need to prioritize compliance efforts, implement robust scheduling practices and seek legal guidance to mitigate the threat of class action litigation. 

By proactively addressing compliance issues, businesses can protect themselves from the severe financial implications associated with legal actions stemming from Fair Workweek violations.

Key Provisions

While specifics may vary, Fair Workweek laws generally share common provisions aimed at promoting schedule stability and providing workers with greater control over their time. Some key provisions include:

  •  Advance notice: Employers are typically required to provide employees with advance notice of their work schedules, often ranging from 10 to 14 days.
  • Predictability pay: If employers make changes to the posted schedule within a certain timeframe (e.g., less than 24 hours before the shift), they may be required to compensate employees with additional pay.
  • Right to rest: Employees may have the right to decline working shifts that are scheduled too close together, providing them with adequate time for rest and personal commitments.
  • Access to hours: Fair Workweek laws may mandate that employers offer available hours to existing employees before hiring new staff, promoting internal mobility and job security.
  • Equal treatment: Employers are prohibited from favoring certain employees over others when assigning shifts or providing opportunities for additional hours.

Challenges for Retailers

While Fair Workweek laws are designed to protect workers, they can present challenges for grocery store owners and managers. Compliance requires careful planning, effective scheduling practices and ongoing communication with staff.

Some of the compliance challenges include:

  • Scheduling complexity: Grocery stores offer essential needs to communities but often have limited labor and resources, making it challenging to create stable and predictable schedules while meeting business needs. 
  •  Technology requirements: Compliance with fair workweek laws may necessitate the use of scheduling software or other technology solutions to track hours, manage schedules and communicate with staff efficiently.
  • Training and education: Ensuring that managers and staff are aware of their rights and responsibilities under Fair Workweek laws is essential for compliance. Providing training and resources can help mitigate the risk of non-compliance.
  • Monitoring and enforcement: Employers must actively monitor their scheduling practices and address any potential violations promptly. Failure to comply with Fair Workweek laws can result in fines, penalties and reputational damage.

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Best Practices

To navigate Fair Workweek laws successfully, grocery store owners, operators and managers can adopt the following best practices:

  •  Plan ahead: Invest time in creating schedules well in advance to provide employees with sufficient notice and minimize the need for last-minute changes.
  •  Use technology: Leverage scheduling software and other technological tools to streamline the scheduling process, track employee hours and communicate schedule updates effectively.
  • Train managers and staff: Educate managers and staff about Fair Workweek laws, including their rights and obligations. Provide training sessions and resources to ensure understanding and compliance.
  • Monitor and adjust: Regularly review scheduling practices to identify any areas of non-compliance, and adjust as needed. Stay informed about changes to Fair Workweek laws, and update policies accordingly.
  •  Prioritize communication: Maintain open lines of communication with employees regarding their schedules, preferences, and any changes or adjustments. Encourage feedback and address concerns promptly.

Fair Workweek laws represent a significant shift in labor regulations aimed at promoting fairness and stability for workers in the grocery industry. While compliance may present challenges, proactive planning, effective communication and a commitment to best practices can help grocery store owners and managers navigate these regulations successfully. 

By prioritizing schedule predictability and employee well-being, grocery stores can not only comply with Fair Workweek laws, but also foster a positive work environment and enhance overall business performance.

About the Author

George Morrison

Attorney George Morrison is a shareholder in the law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. He counsels companies on such employment matters as wage and hour; class and collective actions; predictive scheduling laws; multiple jurisdiction litigation involving federal, state and local employment laws; and due diligence involving stock sales and mergers, covenants, non-compete agreements, personnel policies and layoffs.
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