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What Is New York City’s Fair Workweek Law?

By Douglas Lipsky

Many NYC retail and fast food workers have rights under the New York City Fair Workweek Law. Although the law gives workers in these industries the right to predictable schedules, employers often retaliate against employees who attempt to enforce their rights. By working with an experienced employment retaliation lawyer, you can protect your right to a consistent schedule. 

Fair Workweek Law for Retail Workers

The Fair Workweek Law covers retail businesses in NYC with 20 or more employees that primarily engage in selling consumer goods. The law covers all retail workers regardless of job title except for:

  1. Employees under a collective bargaining agreement that waives these rights and addresses scheduling and 
  2. Employees who work in the corporate office

Protections for retail workers include:

  • Predictable scheduling – Covered retailers must provide employees with at least 72 hours’ notice of their schedules for the next 7 days. Employers must post schedules in a conspicuous place and give them to each employee. If the schedule changes, employers must repost the schedule and provide updated copies to affected employees.
  • On-call and call-in shifts – On-call shifts requiring employees to be available to work if their employer calls them in are not permitted. Similarly, call-in shifts requiring employees to check in with their employer within 72 hours of their shift to see if they are needed are not allowed.
  • Working additional time – Retail employees have the right to refuse to work additional time of more than 15 minutes if employers do not provide 72 hours’ notice. If an employee accepts working additional time with less than 72 hours’ notice, the employer must get their consent in writing.
  • Shortening and cancellations – Generally, retail employers cannot cancel or shorten an employee’s shift by more than 15 minutes with less than 72 hours’ notice. However, employers can cancel shifts without advance notice under limited circumstances, such as a natural disaster or a declared state of emergency.

Fair Workweek Law for NYC Fast Food Workers

The Fair Workweek Law also covers NYC fast food establishments that are part of a chain with one of more than 30 restaurants nationally. Covered employees include workers at fast food restaurants that perform at least one of the following tasks: 

  • Cleaning
  • Cooking
  • Customer service
  • Food or drink preparation
  • Off-site delivery
  • Routine maintenance
  • Security
  • Stocking supplies or equipment

Key provisions of the NYC Fair Workweek Law for fast food workers include:

  • Predictable scheduling – Fast food employers must provide workers with 14 days’ notice of their weekly schedules. 
  • Changes to schedules – Employers must pay a schedule change premium between $10 to $75 if an employee’s schedule is changed 14 days before the first scheduled workday.
  • Additional time – Fast food workers have the right to refuse to work additional time. 
  • Clopening – Employers cannot require employees to work back-to-back closing and opening shifts (“clopening”) with less than 11 hours between shifts unless the employee consents. Employers must get the employee’s consent in writing and pay a $100 premium.
  • Available shifts – Employers must offer newly available shifts to current workers before (1) hiring new employees and (2) adding shifts to a new employee’s regular schedule. Employers must reinstate laid-off employees by seniority when hours become available.
  • Progressive discipline – Fast food employers cannot reduce a worker’s regular schedule by more than 15 percent after 30 days of employment without just cause or a legitimate business reason. Also, employers must provide employees retraining and an opportunity to improve, unless they do something illegal or dangerous, before firing them.

Protecting Your Rights Under the NYC Fair Workweek Law

Retail and fast-food workers are entitled to predictable schedules and other legal protections. If your employer has violated your rights under the Fair Workweek Law, talk to an experienced employment law attorney.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.