Council panel backs Fair Workweek Ordinance

“I feel good about where we are, but it was tough sledding,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

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Chicago City Hall

Rich Hein/Sun-Times file

Aldermen rallied around an ordinance Tuesday that would give many lower-paid employees advance notice of work schedules, handing Mayor Lori Lightfoot a victory on an initiative she championed.

The council’s Committee on Workforce Development endorsed the ordinance on a unanimous voice vote after business and labor groups came together on a compromise version drafted with the mayor’s staff. The full council could adopt the ordinance Wednesday.

Chicago’s Fair WorkWeek Ordinance

What to know about Chicago’s Fair Workweek Ordinance

Industries covered: Buildings services, health care, hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail, warehouse services.

Employers covered: Those with more than 100 employees globally, or 250 employees for nonprofits; at least 50 of them covered by the ordinance.

Employees covered: Salary less than or equal to $50,000 a year; hourly rate less than or equal to $26 (service fees included for hotel workers), with annual cost-of-living adjustment; must work most of time within city limits.

Restaurant exemption: Ordinance applies only to companies with at least 30 locations and 250 employees globally. No franchisee with three or fewer locations in Chicago.

Advance notice of schedule changes: At least 10 days beginning July 1, 2020, and 14 days beginning July 1, 2022.

Right to decline: Employees can turn down schedule changes made after deadline for advance notice.

Extra pay: If shift is changed after the deadline for advance notice, employee gets one extra hour of pay in addition to regular compensation. Employee gets at least 50% of pay for schedule hours if shift is canceled or reduced with less than 24 hours’ notice.

Right to rest: Employee can decline a shift with less than a 10-hour break from the last shift. If they work it, they get paid 1.25 times regular rate.

Exceptions: Schedules changed by mutual agreement in writing; changes forced by civil unrest or threats, utility outages, acts of nature, disaster declaration (for health care), canceled banquet, hours lost because of discipline for just cause.

Offer of more hours: Employer must first make offer to qualified employees covered by ordinance, then to temporary or seasonal workers. No discrimination.

Penalty: Not less than $300 or more than $500 for each offense.

Litigation: Employee can sue only after documenting a complaint with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Effective date: July 1, 2020, except for safety net hospitals, which must comply by Jan. 1, 2021.

It would require companies in specific industries to give eligible workers 10 days notice of schedules beginning July 1, 2020, and 14 days notice beginning two years later.

Passage was assured after lobbyists agreed on provisions pushed by business groups: the ordinance applies only to salaried employees earning up to $50,000 a year and hourly employees earning up to $26; the definition of covered employers was tightened; and “safety net” hospitals that mostly care for the poor and the uninsured got extra time to comply.

Lightfoot, who witnessed some of the testimony at the committee hearing, said the final product gave no special interest everything it wanted. She said she aimed for “a fair and transparent process where a lot of people who hadn’t been part of the discussion were brought into the discussion and had a seat at the table.”

The mayor added, “I feel good about where we are, but it was tough sledding.”

The ordinance applies to companies with more than 100 workers, and with at least 50 of them covered under the ordinance. It also limits the industries where the ordinance applies.

Robert Reiter, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, said last-minute changes negotiated with the mayor ensured there were no “unintended consequences” and that protections are reserved for lower-wage workers who need them the most. He also said it would cover industries that similar laws around the country do not.

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Jack Lavin, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, voiced his support even though the ordinance would place new demands on businesses. He said it was the ‘most expansive” fair workweek law in the nation.

“We’ve tried to advocate for a more balanced approach, with protections for workers,” he said. Lavin said the final version was much more business-friendly than earlier drafts.

Advocates said requiring notice for work schedules provides justice for people who need to arrange child care or other family duties, and for employees who get sent home abruptly when there’s little for them to do.

Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), the committee chairman, said after declaring the ordinance passed, “Hundreds of thousands of workers are going to be protected by our decision today.” Committee members who spoke in favor of the ordinance after clarifying some provisions included Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Ald. Anthony Beale (9th).

If passed by the council and signed by Lightfoot, the ordinance would take effect July 1, 2020, although safety-net hospitals would get until Jan. 1, 2021, to comply.

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