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Fair Workweek Laws and Employee Scheduling

Chipotle Hit With A Double-Wrapped, Fully Loaded Fair Workweek Lawsuit

It was announced on Wednesday April 28, in a Forbes article, that New York City's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection was suing Chipotle for approximately 600,000 violations of New York's fair workweek laws. Whoa. A notorious farm-to-table quick serve giant, on a collision course with NYC and their counsel. Naturally, we asked ourselves "why?". Here is what we dug up:

  • Employees' working hours would change last-minute and without proper notice or extra pay.
  • Requests for time off would not be approved.
  • Additional pay would not be granted when employees were required to work consecutive shifts.
  • Sick leave was not approved to care for sick family members.
  • Sick leave was only allowed for 24 hours, rather than the 40 hours required by law.
  • Failure to offer current employees additional shifts before hiring new employees to fill them.

On its face, this is positioned as a toxic work environment where employees are not treated with fairness or get work-life opportunities they deserve. For their part, Chipotle has labeled the lawsuit a 'dramatic overreach' and intends to defend itself.

To the modern manager and employee scheduling advocate there is a more important consideration here. Are you following fair scheduling practices? Even the greatest managers and passionate leaders may not be in tune with the legal ramifications of fair workweek laws. And that, my friends, could put you on a path to soon be the next Chipotle.

What is Fair Workweek?

Fair Workweek laws promote flexibility for employees in the workplace and protect employees against unfairness - like last minute schedule changes they might not be prepared for. The Economic Policy Institute writes, "these laws provide workers with greater stability, predictability, and flexibility in their work schedules; in many cases, they also require employers to give part-time staff opportunities to increase their hours before adding new staff."

Plain and simple, Fair Workweek is about ensuring your team gets advance notice of their schedule so they can plan life around their work schedule, can request and maintain flexibility to support their families, is compensated fairly for helping the business out last-minute (you know, those shifts you need filled at a moments notice), and can openly communicate with you should they need a change.

What else do I need to know?

Here at SubItUp our workforce experts follow the data. Employee engagement, productivity, well-being - these are all tied to high-performing teams and organizations. Successful business owners focus their efforts on employee experience because it creates positive business outcomes. Those that don't know a very different reality. For example, the University of Chicago recently published a survey that highlighted a staggering 41% of hourly workers did not have 7-day notice of when they were supposed to be working. Not only is this a violation of Fair Workweek laws, but it also directly impacts employee experience and a businesses' bottom line.


Employees' with unpredictable schedules, that can't contribute to their own schedule, and are forced to just 'report for work' are unengaged and, subsequently, have lower attendance and performance records. According to Gallup, organizations with engaged employees are 22% more profitable; those with poor engagement suffered drops in quality and absenteeism. It's clear that businesses should build environments that promote employee engagement, if not for the gains it brings to your business, but also because it's the right thing to do. We can all agree on this... doing the right thing is the best thing for relationships and for business.


How can managers become Fair Workweek compliant?

While different states and cities have passed different variations of Fair Workweek laws, by and large many have adopted the same guidelines. If you're managing a team, it's best to adopt a workflow as outlined below. However, you should research your local laws to ensure you're following them.

Notable ordinances and laws

Managers that follow a consistent workflow as outlined below can become Fair Workweek compliant:

  1. Give your employees estimates of what their weekly hours will be prior to hiring them.
  2. Proactively build your schedule and share it two weeks ahead of time (this time requirement varies based on where you are, so check your local laws).
  3. Compensate them appropriately for picking up shifts with less than 7 days' notice; last-minute call-ins are expected to have additional compensation.
  4. If you have available shifts, offer those additional hours to your existing team prior to hiring additional people.

Can software help me do this more easily?

Yes. And, more easily than you're probably thinking.

At SubItUp, our web-based, automated solutions are all about efficiency and fairness. SubItUp will automate the process of collecting staff availability, auto generate schedules based on your business needs while improving communication with your team. The outcome is simple and measurable... employees will love their schedules and their ability to participate in the process of managing their schedule.

In employee scheduling, intelligently automating as much as you can is just the beginning. Your scheduling software needs to be able to create an initial schedule, allow for Social Scheduling™, engage your entire team in conversation to fill vacant shifts or allow them to swap autonomously. All while creating a feedback loop that builds an updated schedule that meets everyone's needs by using technology.

Better Quality Schedules, Fewer Change Requests

Many managers manually perform the above tasks while thinking - "software can't be this smart, right?". SubItUp makes your schedule smarter without you even knowing it. "How?"... you may ask. Our algorithms and machine learning create the best schedule based on several factors. Armed with this powerful information, SubItUp eliminates all complicated scheduling challenges.

Think of going to get a coffee every morning and, sooner or later, your barista just has your coffee ready when you walk in. That's SubItUp for employees. And it significantly reduces the amount of changes they request after you've shared the first draft schedule.

Social Scheduling™ Is Flexibility and Accountability Bundled Together

Many managers come to us saying, we need to automate this but also ensure employees can handle swaps or adds amongst themselves because our managers are overloaded. We say, "no problem". We invented Social Scheduling™ to let employees trade shifts amongst themselves, with or without manager oversight - without reducing manager's control. It's helped reduce the workload of managers by more than 80%.

More importantly, and specific to Fair Workweek, workers can maintain flexibility by openly requesting to drop their shift and alert their teammates to the fact they can't make this shift. Your existing employees can pick the shift up, your requesting employee maintains flexibility that Fair Workweek requires, and your managers haven't lifted a finger. This level of employee accountability is not seen in other software, and far exceeds what a typical trade board offers where the burden falls on a manager to review and ensure shifts are staffed.

Communication Suite Makes Team Collaboration Easy and Transparent

When a few speed bumps happen - like you just can't find someone to cover that shift - a full communication suite helps the manager and employee solve the problem together. In-app messaging, email, text, contact info for your teammates and manager so you can call them - literally, everything but sending a Hogwart's owl - is covered in SubItUp. The lines of communication between all members of your team are open.

  • Automated schedule announcements let teams know when their schedule is posted
  • SMS reminders let them know when they're scheduled to work
  • Announcements of swap requests help keep the schedule filled
  • Manager-to-employee, and employee-to-manager messaging is built in
  • OK, we're working on the 'Send an Owl' feature too (it's a number of years out)

If your software can handle these, you're likely compliant with most ordinances and laws across the country. If you're doing this manually, let's talk and save you some time and that recurring Amazon subscription you have for migraine pills. It's kind of what we do.


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