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News from EPI More than 1.8 million workers have gained protections from recently passed fair workweek laws

New research by EPI Research Assistant Julia Wolfe, Economic Analyst Janelle Jones, and Senior Economic Analyst David Cooper shows that recently implemented fair scheduling and “right-to-request” laws have benefitted more than 1.8 million working people across the country.

Since 2016, the state of Oregon and several cities have enacted “fair workweek” protections, which primarily apply to people working in chain retail stores and fast food restaurants. While each policy is unique, they include provisions such as advance notice of work schedules, additional compensation for unexpected schedule changes or “on-call” hours, the right to accept or decline added or lengthened shifts, and mandatory rest periods between shifts, during which time employees must receive a pay premium if they choose to work additional work hours offered by their employer.

The nearly 740,000 workers protected by these comprehensive fair workweek laws include an estimated 327,000 workers in New York City; 175,000 in San José, Calif.; 172,000 in the state of Oregon; 40,000 in Seattle, Wash.; 23,000 in San Francisco, Calif.; and 2,500 in Emeryville, Calif. Meanwhile, New Hampshire, Vermont, and San Francisco have passed “right-to-request” statutes, which grant workers the right to request scheduling accommodations. While these laws are more limited in scope, they apply to a broader segment of the workforce, covering more than a million workers.

“In the same way that campaigns for higher minimum wages, paid sick days, and paid family and medical leave have highlighted the need to update labor standards to reflect today’s economy, we hope that policymakers will recognize that stable, predictable, and adequate work hours are just as important to ensuring economic stability for working people,” said Wolfe.

Working people in industries like retail, sales, and hospitality increasingly have to deal with irregular schedules that change with little-to-no advanced notice, sometimes requiring employees to remain on call and come to work at a moment’s notice. Research has shown that irregular and unpredictable schedules result in a host of serious problems for working people and their families. They also create volatile incomes, adding an additional barrier for families trying to manage their budgets and plan for the future. At the same time, a growing body of research has found that increasing predictability, stability, and flexibility of worker schedules can lead to higher productivity and increased sales for retail stores.

“Fair workweek legislation helps working people have stability in their budgets and time to spend with their families,” said Jones. “We encourage policymakers across the country to enact similar provisions.”

Campaigns are underway in Washington State and the cities of Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia to pass similar legislation and ensure that more working people have predictable, stable, and healthier work schedules.