Retail and fast-food workers: These are your rights under Philadelphia’s Fair Workweek law
If you work in fast food or retail in Philly and your manager changes your schedule last minute, you should get paid.
Last summer, dozens of employees at the Target at Broad and Washington in South Philly got a check for $350 because Target violated the city’s new Fair Workweek law.
If you work at a retail or fast-food chain in the city, chances are you’re covered by this law, too. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the Philadelphia Fair Workweek law?
It’s a city law that gives retail and fast-food workers the right to consistent hours so they can better plan and schedule their lives. Other cities, such as Seattle, New York, and San Francisco, have a version of this law. In Philadelphia, it went into effect in April 2020, after workers lobbied City Hall for it.
Am I covered by the Fair Workweek law?
If you work for fast-food, retail, or hotel companies that have 250 or more employees and more than 30 locations anywhere in the world, you’re covered. This covers most household name, big-box chains.
If you work at a franchise for one of these companies, you’re most likely covered. And if you work at one of these kinds of stores through a temp agency, you’re also covered. If you’re not sure if you’re covered, reach out to the city’s Office of Worker Protection at 215-686-0802 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are undocumented, you are also covered by this law.
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What are my rights under the Fair Workweek law?
When you get hired, you should get a written “good faith estimate,” which gives you an estimate of how many hours you’ll get in a 90-day period.
You should always get your schedule 14 days in advance, and if your employer makes any changes to that schedule more than 24 hours after you get it, you should get paid “predictability pay” for each change. Predictability pay is generally one hour of pay at your regular rate.
For example: If your manager asks you to stay longer one day, you should get predictability pay. If your manager changes your start time, you should get predictability pay. If one of your shifts gets canceled, you should get predictability pay.
You can always make a change to your own schedule without penalty under the law. Predictability pay is only for when your boss makes a change.
You should get nine hours of rest in between shifts. That means if you work the closing shift one day, you shouldn’t be on the schedule for opening the store the next day — unless it’s nine hours after your last shift ended. You can volunteer to work without nine hours of rest in between, but then you have to get paid $40 extra.
You have a right to more hours if they’re available. Before hiring a new employee, employers must offer these hours to current workers by posting the new positions in an accessible location for 72 hours. That means if you notice more workers getting hired at your store and you haven’t been alerted there are more hours you can get, that could be a violation.
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What should I do if I think my employer is breaking the law?
Report it to the city by filling out this form and emailing it or mailing it to the Mayor’s Office of Labor, Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance, 1515 Arch St., 11th Floor, Philadelphia, Pa. 19102.
Keep evidence of any violations you notice. That could mean handwritten notes, with dates, that say what happened (”On Oct. 5, 2021, we didn’t get our schedules two weeks in advance”). It could also mean text messages documenting verbal conversations with your manager. You could text something like, “Thanks for asking me to pick up that shift today” or “We just spoke on the phone and you asked me to work a longer shift than what was on the schedule, right?”
Often, verbal conversations aren’t documented, which makes it hard to prove things if there’s an investigation. “Always protect yourself and get into the habit of sending a quick written follow-up,” said Office of Worker Protections spokesperson Candace Chewning.
Even if you don’t have these kinds of notes, you can still file a Fair Workweek complaint. It’s on your employer to keep records that will prove it didn’t break the law, Chewning said.
I’m afraid of reporting my employer. Can I get in trouble?
It’s against the Fair Workweek law for employers to retaliate against you for reporting them. It’s illegal for them to cut your hours, fire you, or even threaten to cut your hours for reporting them.
That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But workers whose employers have retaliated against them have gotten back pay, gotten their jobs back, and have had disciplinary write-ups removed from theirrecord after filing a complaint with the city, Chewning said.
You can be anonymous when reporting your employer, and the city will walk you through your options. The city will never share your name without your consent. But, Chewning said, “the [worker protections] office encourages workers who file a complaint to choose to identify themselves rather than remain anonymous in order to create a culture of compliance where speaking up about the law is typical and expected.”
What are some of the employers that have broken laws like this?
In Seattle, employers such as Macy’s, Qdoba, Crate & Barrel, GameStop, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have violated the city’s Secure Scheduling law, according to the city’s Office of Labor Standards.
In New York City, franchises of Burger King, Papa John’s, and McDonald’s have violated the law, according to a 2021 report from the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection. New York City is also suing Chipotle for $150 million for allegedly violating the law.
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