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What to know about Chicago’s new Fair Workweek Ordinance

Workers in several industries in Chicago will have new rights that protect them from sudden changes to their work schedule.

Hospital worker LeCrisha Pearson
Hospital workers at a City Hall news conference on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 after passage of a new ordinance requiring advance notice of their schedules.
Fran Spielman/Chicago Sun-Times

Workers in several industries in Chicago will have new rights that protect them from sudden changes to their work schedule.

The Fair Workweek Ordinance was passed unanimously by the Chicago City Council last summer and takes effect Wednesday.

Other cities, including New York, Seattle and Philadelphia, have adopted similar plans.

Here is what you should know about Chicago’s new law:

What is the Fair Workweek Ordinance?

The ordinance requires employers to give advanced notice of work schedules and to pay employees additional wages for sudden schedule changes.

Employees must be given at least a 10-day notice of their new schedule. The time period for the notice will extend to 14 days in two years.

Workers will receive one hour of additional pay for every change made with less than the 10-day notice, regardless of how many hours they may or may not have lost.

Workers will receive 50% of their base pay for every hour lost if changes are made less than 24 hours before a shift starts.

Workers also will be given the “right to decline” any additional hours added to their schedule with less than the 10-day notice.

The law also grants a “right to rest,” allowing employees to decline work hours that are less than 10 hours after the end of their previous shift. If an employee chooses to work those hours, he or she will receive time and a quarter for the shift.

Employers will have to give new employees a “good faith estimate in writing” on their projected workdays and hours for the first 90 days of employment, including average weekly hours and whether they can expect any on-call shifts.

Who is protected?

The ordinance applies to those who are making less than $26 an hour or $50,000 a year in the following industries: building services, health care, hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail and warehouse services.

The ordinance also will help workers in those businesses that employ 100 or more people, not-for-profits with at least 250 employees, restaurants with at least 30 locations and 250 employees and franchises with more than three locations.

Penalties for businesses not following the ordinance

Businesses will be fined $300 to $500 for each offense.

The ordinance and fines might put many business owners in a precarious position, advocates say, because many still are reeling from the several-month closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The restaurant industry has been devastated by COVID-19, and the unprecedented nature of the pandemic poses greater unpredictability when it comes to staffing,” said Sam Toia, president and CEO of Illinois Restaurant Association. “The IRA continues to encourage local officials to consider all forms of regulatory and financial relief to support this critical sector of our economy.”

Don Villar, secretary-treasurer at the Chicago Federation of Labor, said the ordinance — along with the increasing minimum wage — will improve the lives of workers.

“Too many employees were being abused in the workplace, like making people close for the night, go home to get a couple of hours of sleep and then come back to open up shop,” Villar said. “It’s about the quality of life for working families in our city.”

The advance-noticed schedules will allow workers to plan around other jobs and schooling and will give single parents an opportunity to spend more time with their children, Villar said.

“People tend to live to work instead of working to live, and this ordinance addresses that,” Villar said.

The Chicago Federation of Labor, an association of nearly 300 labor groups, has an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.

Manny Ramos is a corps member of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.