LA City Council approves Fair Work Week ordinance aimed at helping retail employees

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Thursday, November 24, 2022 8:57PM
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The Los Angeles City Council voted for an ordinance that requires retail employers to provide work schedules to employees at least 14 days in advance, and provide at least 10 hours rest between shifts.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday voted for an ordinance that requires retail employers to provide work schedules to employees at least 14 days in advance, and provide at least 10 hours rest between shifts.

The Los Angeles Fair Work Week Ordinance, proposed by Councilman Curren Price in 2019, has been through various discussions and edits for the past three years. It seeks to soften the unpredictability of retail employee schedules.

Price said the ordinance -- which will come back to the council next week for a second vote -- will impact an estimated 70,000 workers at large retailers in Los Angeles.

"We must recognize the gaps and wide range of concerns faced by our workers, and we must put their needs over corporate profits," Price said. "This is the least we can do to give them our sincere appreciation and thanks for the work that they do."

According to a UCLA study cited in the ordinance, 80% of the 140,000 Los Angeles residents working in the retail sector have "unpredictable, last-minute and fluctuating work weeks over which they have no control," and over three-quarters receive less than a week's notice of their schedules.

"My experience with my scheduling is different every week," said Heidi Lopez, who works at a grocery store. "I don't know when I work in the morning, when I work in the evenings. I've been scheduled to close till midnight and then come back at six o'clock in the morning."

The ordinance, which will take effect next April if approved, only applies to retail businesses with 300 or more employees globally.

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Council President Paul Krekorian described the ordinance as a "catalytic change in the way the retail industry is going to be operating in our city," and Councilman Paul Koretz called its passage "one of the proudest moments of the LA City Council."

"It makes a lot of things in life possible and functional without causing an undue harm to the employers," Koretz said.

The ordinance also requires employers to provide employees with a "good faith estimate" of their work schedule upon hiring. If employees work a shift that begins less than 10 hours from the previous shift, employers would have to provide one-and-a-half times pay.

The council approved 11 new positions in the Bureau of Contract Administration to help implement and enforce the ordinance.

The ordinance "represents the strength and the value of the labor movement," according to Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez.

"This monumental change and adoption of this new ordinance is going to help, I believe, be a catalytic force in helping to assist us in uplifting more families out of poverty," Rodriguez said.

Other major cities such as San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Oregon have passed similar policies, according to Price's motion.

Steve McCarthy, vice president of public policy and regulatory affairs of the California Retailers Association, had asked the council's Economic Development and Jobs committee for a delay in implementing the ordinance until September 2023 to give stores more time to revise their policies, introduce new software and train management. McCarthy also asked for the inclusion of an administrative process before lawsuits are filed under the ordinance.

"Retailers and other businesses continue to grapple with COVID-related regulations, supply chain challenges, and worker shortages," the association said in a statement. "Even when the pandemic does finally recede many of these challenges will remain for some time, so this policy has the effect of heaping substantial new compliance hurdles on top of what is still an extraordinary period."

Employees will not be required to find coverage for scheduled hours if they are unable to work for a reason covered by other laws. Employers would also be required to offer additional hours of work to current employees before hiring new workers.

Employers could be fined up to $500 per penalty for violating the ordinance, with the amount payable to the employee.

Rob Nothoff, policy director for the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, called the ordinance "thoroughly analyzed" and vetted over the past three years.

"Simply put, we have a crisis of good jobs here in Los Angeles, with the central front line retail workers voicing their need for better wages, benefits and working conditions," Nothoff told the committee. "This sort of policy helps to answer that bell."

Lack of workplace protections have unnecessarily slowed the region's economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and created barriers to those hoping to enter the workforce, according to Katie Duberg, policy organizing director for the California Work & Family Coalition.

"Parents and those caring for a seriously ill family member must know their schedule in advance in order to both work and arrange child care, elder care or otherwise meet caregiving obligations," Duberg told the committee.

Amardeep Gill, director of the Grocery & Retail campaign at the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, said in a statement that when the campaign for the ordinance began five years ago, the group envisioned a "Los Angeles retail economy that provides reliable jobs and stable incomes for working families."

"Today we are one step closer to that reality: Retail workers will finally be able to plan their budgets, care for their families, and juggle work and school," Gill said.

City News Service contributed to this report.