Philadelphia Passes Law Ensuring Predictable Schedules For Fast-Food, Hospitality Workers

Sometimes lost in discussions of minimum wage and tipping is the burden that "on-call" or unpredictable work schedules pose for employees in the hospitality industry. For employees with children or those who might be juggling multiple jobs, not knowing whether their employer will call them into work in a couple of days can make finding proper childcare or a ride to work nearly impossible. The city of Philadelphia hopes to alleviate some of that difficulty with newly passed legislation that requires more predictable work schedules for fast-food, hospitality, and retail workers.

The Associated Press reports the measure, approved Thursday, will affect about 130,000 employees in the city. It follows similar policies that have been approved in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, and Washington D.C.

The Philadelphia version mandates employers give their workers "good-faith estimates" of their work schedules upon hiring; and starting in 2020, employers will have to share detailed schedules with workers at least 10 days in advance. (That window lengthens to 14 days in 2021.) According to CityLab, if shifts aren't included in the posted schedule, employees can decline to work them. If a boss changes the posted schedule within that 10-14 day time frame, they'll also owe workers a "predictability pay fee" on top of the wages for those hours in question.

The legislation's lead, Councilwoman Helen Gym, lauded its passage as a path out of poverty for working people. But managers from the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association criticized the bill at a fractious city council meeting in October; according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, they said the requirement will drive up hotel rates and make the city's hotels less competitive. Other critics from the hospitality industry said restaurant and hotel staffing needs are inherently unpredictable, and that this requirement will be too rigid and could lead them to not offer workers extra hours when business is busy.

Some workers, though, say the bill is nothing short of life-changing.

"A fair workweek will change my life," Lekesha Wheelings, a Marriott hotel worker, told the AP. She says she currently gets her schedule with about 48 hours' notice, and that this year she made less money than the year prior. "I love my job and I know that I have to do this to take care of my family, but I've made a lot of sacrifices."