Employers in Seattle face some of the most restrictive predictive scheduling laws in the country. They call their legislative package the “Secure Scheduling Ordinance” and the requirements place onerous burdens on businesses that they cannot afford to ignore. Violations of the ordinance could result in fines that not only hurt businesses at the profit margin, but might even force some establishments to permanently shutter their doors.
That’s why it is important to understand the law itself and then utilize the right tools to help you remain in compliance with these predictive scheduling mandates.
Key requirements for Secure Scheduling in Seattle
The law applies to food service establishments and retail businesses that employ more than 500 employees worldwide as well as to full-service restaurants that employ over 500 employees and operate in at least 40 locations worldwide.
Employers that are responsible for adhering to the Secure Scheduling Ordinance must follow a number of requirements. First, upon hiring an employee they are required to provide a “good faith estimate” of the hours an employee can expect to work and whether that employee will be expected to work on-call shifts. The estimate must cover the entire year and be divided into quarterly increments. Each year, employers are obligated to revise these estimates and provide the updates to their employees.
Next, employees must be given a chance to provide input into their work schedule, particularly in the hours they work and locations they work at. If an employer chooses to refuse an employees request, they must reply a with a written response that justifies their refusal and save this document for future reference should they ever be audited. Employees are also entitled to know their schedules a full 14 days in advance. If an employer makes changes to this schedule, employees are entitled to one hour of additional pay.
Employers that fail to adhere to these strict regulations will receive hefty fines that risk crippling their businesses. The minimum fine is $500 but since penalties are assessed on a per employee, per violation basis they can quickly add up. With just 50 mistakes in a given year, a business would be fined at least $50,000.
The Seattle law does not apply to any employees employed in an administrative capacity, so human resources staff and receptionists are exempt.
Costly mistakes: How to avoid fines that will burn a hole in your wallet
An in-depth explanation of each of these violations can be found directly in the Seattle municipal code. However, the vast majority of these rules are self-explanatory. Most of the fines have to do with a failure to adhere to regulations and document their compliance. Among the listed violations are:
- Failure to provide a good faith estimate of work schedule
- Failure to provide a written response for denial of the employee’s request for a limitation or change in work schedule due to a major life event
- Failure to compensate employee at one and one-half times pay for working hours that are separated by less than ten hours from the previous shift
- Failure to provide at least 14 calendar days of advance notice of work
- Failure to provide notice of work schedule changes
- Failure to comply with prohibitions against asking or requiring an employee to find coverage for scheduled hours if the employee is unable to work for a reason covered by other laws or a major life event
- Failure to compensate employee with additional compensation for work schedule changes
- Failure to comply with prohibition against systemic pattern or practice of significant under-scheduling
- Failure to offer additional hours of work to existing employees
- Failure to provide employees with written notice of rights
- Failure to maintain records for three years
- Failure to comply with prohibitions against retaliation for exercising rights
Naturally, the biggest issue at play here is whether an employer is able to both follow the regulatory procedures and properly store records for a period of at least 3 years. Employers must be able to maintain in-depth copies of the estimates they provide annually to employees, their responses to any employee requests for a change in their work schedule, and also any notices they deliver regarding schedule changes.
It goes without saying that a file cabinet or flash drive is that least efficient and effective means of tracking and recording all of these moving parts. Likewise, employers that rely on a simple Excel spreadsheet to manage their schedules will be gambling their fate away when an unnoticed human error could result in thousands of dollars in fines.
Properly storing this information not only serves as a protection against employees that might make false claims, but will also secure employers should they ever be audited. Oversight and investigations are conducted by Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards.
Overlapping ordinance: Seattle’s wage theft laws
Seattle also requires employers to provide a written notice that breaks down an employee’s wages and tips each time an employee is paid. These payroll records must also be kept for a minimum of three years, just like the Secure Scheduling Ordinance demands. Deputy’s employee management system is an all-in-one, cloud-based solution to these administrative concerns and integrates fluidly with all major payroll applications. With Deputy, employees and employers are always on the same page, your data is stored securely, and your records will always be up-to-date.