Target paid nearly 70 employees a total of $22,450 for violating the Philadelphia’s Fair Workweek law, the city’s Office of Worker Protection announced this week.
It was the first time the city ordered an employer to pay damages for violating the year-old law, which mandates more consistent schedules for retail and fast-food workers at corporate chains.
These low-wage workers said they struggled to plan their lives around last-minute, erratic schedules, while corporations said they needed flexibility to schedule workers in response to the ebbs and flows of business.
Target broke the city’s law by not posting weekly work schedules two weeks in advance on several occasions at its Broad and Washington store in South Philadelphia, according to the city’s April violation letter to Target. Since then, all affected workers have been paid and last week the case was closed.
Most employees who received damages got $350. Target’s starting wage is $15 an hour.
Target said it requires all of its stores to be in compliance with the Fair Workweek law.
“We’re working directly with the city to understand the nuances of the law, compensated our team members where we had challenges implementing our new scheduling practices and have a robust training program underway to ensure all of our stores effectively meet the requirements going forward,” said Target spokesperson Kayla Castaneda.
One of the workers who got a $350 check was Carolyn King, who had reported Target to the city’s Office of Worker Protection in June 2020.
King used to work at the Target at Broad and Washington as a human-resources staffer, making $15 an hour. As part of her duties, she’d set the schedule but it had to be approved by the store manager. After months of back and forth with the store manager about the new Fair Workweek law, she said, she believed that her only option was to report Target to the city.
King, now 29 and on leave from Target as she attends Temple law school, was happy to see that the city had finally finished its investigation. It had taken so long that she didn’t think it would actually happen.
Target’s actions baffled her. “I am the lowest level of an employee at Target,” she said, “and if I am able to grasp this, then surely management should be able to grasp this.”
Fair Workweek — one of several worker protection laws on the books in Philadelphia — took effect in April 2020, weeks after the city went into coronavirus lockdown and retail and fast-food workers lost their jobs. Since then, the Office of Worker Protection has received 24 complaints that allege violations of the law, spokesperson Candace Chewning said. Five cases had been closed so far, resulting in two violations.
Awareness is a major hurdle to enforcing Fair Workweek and other worker protection laws, such as paid sick leave and whistle-blower protection. In New York City, 70% of low-wage workers surveyed had heard little or nothing about New York’s Fair Workweek law in 2019, two years after the law was passed, according to a survey conducted by the Unheard Third, a project from antipoverty nonprofit the Community Service Society, which surveys low-income New Yorkers.
Employers covered by the law are required to post a Fair Workweek flier in the workplace, but King said her coworkers often came to her with questions about their rights because it’s a complicated law and the flier wasn’t as clear as it could have been.
Other cities have sought damages for workers whose scheduling rights have been violated. Last April, New York City sued Chipotle Mexican Grill, saying it owed more than $150 million in damages to workers for violating the city’s Fair Workweek law in dozens of locations. In June 2020, Seattle reached a nearly $2 million settlement for roughly 800 Macy’s workers, the biggest “secure scheduling” settlement since the city law went into effect in 2017, said Office of Labor Standards spokesperson Cynthia Santana.