San Francisco Leads on Fair Scheduling, But Better Enforcement Needed
By Liz Ben-Ishai
When San Francisco passed the Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinances (FRERO) in November 2014, it broke new ground for workers’ rights. FRERO was the first public policy to attack unfair scheduling practices and has bolstered support for similar policies around the nation.
Scheduling on the Cutting Edge, a new report from CLASP and Young Workers United, highlights FRERO’s great promise as well as the work still needed to effectively implement it.
The report, based on a survey of 241 workers covered under the law, finds that FRERO provides critical protections to workers but needs to be better enforced. Low public awareness, lack of business compliance, and limited outreach and enforcement resources are reducing the law’s impact.
The first law of its kind, FRERO requires retail employers to provide workers at least 7 days’ notice of their schedules. It also requires them to compensate workers when shifts are changed or cancelled with insufficient notice (known as “predictability pay”) or when they are “on call” but ultimately not needed. Additionally, FRERO requires employers to offer available hours to current workers before hiring new staff.
FRERO has the potential to be a game-changer for many lower-income workers, helping them to plan their lives, arrange child care, pursue education, and manage finances. Indeed, surveyed workers said predictable schedules brought stability to their lives. However, more than a year into implementation, just 18 percent of workers were familiar with the law. Moreover, many workers said their employers weren’t complying with every rule. Among workers who experienced shifts changes—including cancelled or added shifts—with less than a week’s notice, just 30 percent received predictability pay. Furthermore, despite the fact that many workers expressed a desire for more hours of work, a majority said they weren’t offered additional hours before employers hired new staff.
Advocates and community-based organizations in San Francisco, including YWU, have been working diligently to spread the word about FRERO, despite limited resources. YWU is part of a collective of community-based organizations that partner with San Francisco’s enforcement agency to raise awareness about FRERO and other worker protections. These efforts have empowered workers to challenge unfair labor practices, including by filing claims with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE), the agency enforcing the law. Yet as the report notes, more resources are needed as the collective undertakes outreach on a growing number of laws, including FRERO.
In addition to highlighting the need for resources to support community-agency partnerships, the report calls for increased, dedicated staffing for FRERO enforcement at OLSE and recommends that OLSE approach enforcement strategically. It should focus its efforts on high-violation areas and be proactive about identifying violations, as opposed to waiting for complaints.
A growing number of cities and states are considering—and passing—fair scheduling laws, which could help protect millions of workers from volatile scheduling practices that wreak havoc on families and create economic instability. The study released today points to the need to ensure adequate resources and staffing for enforcement of these laws in order to maximize their impact.