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Chicago's fair workweek law takes effect Wednesday as businesses grapple with pandemic uncertainty

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

If an employer changes a worker's schedule with less notice, it must give the worker an hour of "predictability pay" at the regular wage rate. If an employer cancels or reduces hours within 24 hours of the start of a previously scheduled shift, it has to pay workers half of what they would have made had they worked.

The ordinance does not prevent workers from trading shifts or requesting changes to their schedule. Employers can also change an employee's hours without penalty when it is mutually agreed upon in writing.

The ordinance includes a "right to rest" provision that gives employees the right to decline work hours that start less than 10 hours after the end of a shift. If an employer doesn't get written consent from workers willing to work such shifts, it has to pay them time and a quarter.

The law also requires that employers offer existing part-time workers extra hours before hiring new people, meant to address underemployment that makes it hard for low-wage workers to make ends meet. If part-time workers decline the extra hours, employers must offer those hours to temporary or seasonal workers before hiring people.

Violations carry fines of $300 to $500 per offense. The law is enforced by the newly created Office of Labor Standards, which also enforces the city's minimum wage and paid sick leave laws.

Why a delay was sought

 

Trade associations representing affected businesses asked the city in March to delay implementation of the ordinance by six months, as the pandemic disrupted their ability to properly prepare, said Tanya Triche Dawood, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Many businesses must put in place electronic scheduling systems to keep track of workers' hours, but some were forced to close and haven't been able to train managers on the systems, she said.

As businesses start to reopen, uncertainty remains about what kind of staffing will be needed given continued consumer wariness and the possibility that workers, or someone they live with, will fall ill, she said.

Bob Reiter, executive director of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said concerns about electronic scheduling systems are overblown because businesses will bring workers back slowly.

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