If you operate a substantial retail operation or grocery in the city of Los Angeles, here’s a prediction for you: You’re going to be subject to a predictive scheduling law soon.
That’s an easy prediction because the city already is in the preliminary stages of creating such an ordinance. Details aren’t set, but the city seems intent on going forward with it.
If you’re unfamiliar with predictive scheduling, it means you must give workers at least two weeks’ notice of their shifts. There are penalties for canceling shifts and for calling people in at the last minute.
The L.A. ordinance – which it is calling the “Fair Work Week” law – would apply to retail businesses with 300 or more employees systemwide. Interestingly, it would not apply to fast-food restaurants, but it would apply to other retail operations including groceries but not banks. Again, the ordinance hasn’t been written or at least not released, so most provisions aren’t known. The ones mentioned above could change.
Nonetheless, businesses and business groups already are upset and mobilizing. Since it seems apparent that some version of a predictive scheduling ordinance will pass, they’re mostly in damage-control mode, hoping to blunt any egregious provisions. The business community’s big concern: The city will stick to its usual impulse to pass a pleasant-sounding ordinance that appears to be aimed at a few bad actors but will end up abusing many good businesses.
We’ll get back to that aspect in a moment. First, let’s drop back and review how we got here.
A study was done last year by the UCLA Labor Center and the union lobbying group called LAANE, or Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy. The study said retail workers have unpredictable workweeks that can change at last minute, making it difficult to predict their income or to arrange child care. It claimed that 77 percent get less than one weeks’ notice of their schedule.
“L.A. retail workers live in economic uncertainty, making it difficult to predict their income, make time for school, or care for their families,” Councilmember Curren Price was quoted as saying when he introduced a motion in March to direct the city attorney to draft a the fair work week ordinance.
A few cities, including New York, Seattle and San Francisco, in recent years have adopted predictive scheduling that sets out provisions and penalties. In New York, for example, employers have to pay $500 for the first violation, up to $750 for the second and up to $1,000 for each subsequent one. The penalties are imposed on a per- employee and per-occurrence basis.