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Should cities legislate work schedules?

Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled Tuesday to discuss a proposed ordinance that would limit large employers’ flexibility in setting worker schedules.

The idea being advanced by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), would have Evanston adopt rules similar to the Fair Workweek ordinance that went into effect two years ago in Chicago.

That ordinance gives workers earning less than $26 an hour employed by large employers in the building services, healthcare, hotel, manufacturing, restaurant, retail and warehouse services industries certain protections.

An employer in those industries is covered if it has more than 100 total employees, at least 50 of whom are in the wage category covered by the ordinance.

A non-profit employer or one in the restaurant industry has to have 250 employees to be covered and restaurants are only covered if they have 30 or more locations.

The ordinance requires that covered employers:

  • Give workers a written estimate of days and hours of work prior to or upon employment.
  • Post work schedules with at least 10 days’ notice.
  • Give workers an hour of extra pay for any shift changes made with less than 10 days notice.
  • Give workers 50% of their pay for any lost hours for shift changes made less than 24 hours before the shift starts.

A law firm that represents employers says the Chicago rules “may be onerous” and require retaining all work schedule records and other documentation for three years.

An effort to adopt a similar statewide law has so far failed to win approval in the Illinois legislature.

As of a year ago, Workforce.com reports that two states Vermont and Oregon — had adopted predictive scheduling laws and seven other municipalities besides Chicago — including the California cities of Berkeley, Emeryville, San Francisco and San Jose, along with New York, Philadelphia and Seattle — had adopted such ordinances.

By contrast, four states — Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa and Tennessee — have made it illegal for municipalities in those states to adopt such requirements.

Workforce.com says many of the regulations adopted have “draconian penalties” and allow for employee-initiative class action litigation.

But it says academic research has shown that predictable schedules lead to “happier, healthier” employees who are more likely to “stay with their employer for the long term.”

Materials prepared for the EDC discussion at 6 pm Tuesday do not include information on how many Evanston workers might be covered by such an ordinance or what the cost to the city of enforcing such rules might be.

Also not indicated is whether employers covered by Chicago’s ordinance have extended any of its benefits on their own to their suburban employees to keep their scheduling practices consistent companywide.

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