By 2020, restaurants in the US will pay an estimated $30 million-plus in compliance fees.

Fair workweek and predictive scheduling laws are actively affecting five cities and two entire states, with Chicago joining the list in 2020. Beyond that, dozens of other states and cities have proposed similar laws to help protect the health and well-being of shift workers.

City ordinances in San Jose, Seattle, Emeryville, San Francisco, and New York City require covered employers to offer predictable schedules to employees.

Major themes in these laws include how restaurant employers must:

  • Offer additional hours to existing staff before hiring new employees
  • Provide new employees with a “good faith” estimates of weekly hours, days, and shift times before hiring
  • Provide staff 11 hours of rest between shifts
  • Provide two weeks’ notice of schedules
  • Pay a fee if the schedule is changed with less than seven days notice

Let’s take a closer look at the predictive scheduling restaurant laws in effect across the states.

Restaurants that don’t comply with scheduling labor laws are already facing major penalties:

  • In 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recovered more than $483 million in back wages for employees resulting from over 7,000 hospitality wage and hour claims
  • In June 2018, 7 Bay Area restaurants were faced with a collective fine of over $10 million for failing to properly compensate employee overtime pay
  • In May 2019, a restaurant in San Diego was forced to pay nearly $30,000 in back pay for failing to compensate overtime pay for two chefs

By 2020, many restaurants in violation of the above predictive scheduling laws will be facing tens of millions in fees—don’t be one of them.                        

Here’s what your restaurant can do to avoid compliance fees and keep your employees happy and healthy.

Implement simple, flexible and compliant scheduling practices

Use streamlined scheduling practices that allow you to plan weeks in advance while staying organized. Have set times every month, or every two weeks, where you (or your managers) coordinate staff availability, time-off requests, and build the schedules out for the next period.

Ensure every manager is fully trained during onboarding (and ongoing) on the scheduling process to avoid any compliance slip-ups.

Empower employees to collaborate on their schedules

Make sure you’re getting the information you need often and early in the scheduling process and empower your employees to be involved in creating their ideal schedules. Create and distribute guidelines around availability time-off, and shift trading—getting your employees involved to make sure their schedule works for them.

Stay on top of employee requests

Make sure both your managers and employees stay on top of any requests that may alter the schedule. In your availability and time-off guidelines, request that time-off and availability is submitted at least 3 weeks in advance to give your team time to build them into the schedule. However, also stay on top of those requests when they come in. Don’t leave texts until later, or you may forget and face last-minute schedule update fees. If requests come in on paper or in-person, take note and store them in a specific, visible location in the back office to keep them top-of-mind.

Use past sales and labor data to predict future scheduling needs

Don’t wait to see how the weather and week turn out, and don’t schedule blind—build schedules in advance with past sales and future weather data to get schedules out the door to keep your restaurant covered—far in advance. Using software can make this process more simple by automatically projecting your sales to help you schedule accordingly. The more accurate you are about predicting future needs, the less you will pay in last minute compliance change fees.

Simplify schedule sharing

Whether you email a spreadsheet or send a push notification through an app, ensure you have a reliable way to share new schedules with employees. Relying on posting a paper schedule in the back office leaves you vulnerable—only having one place where the schedule lives is dangerous when employees need to be notified of their shifts two weeks in advance.

Have a system in place and updated employee contact information to ensure you can send schedules straight to staff whenever a new schedule is created.

Get everything on paper, and stay organized

If an employee waives their right to a break one shift, or requests a schedule change, get it on paper. If a dispute is ever raised, you’ll want trackable documentation of everything. Plus, compliance laws require you to keep three years of scheduling activity logged for compliance. Either keep your back-office papers organized or digitize these activities with modern software solutions.

Don’t wait for new scheduling ordinances to hit your city

If you’re not running a restaurant in a city that’s affected, don’t sit idly by. Fair workweek laws and new restaurant laws are spreading rapidly across the US to protect shift workers, so stay ahead of the game by starting to make changes in your organization right now.

Bonus: consult a lawyer

While reading up on local restaurant laws, implementing smart scheduling software, and taking a more hands-on approach to labor-management are great ways steps towards compliance, you can’t get better legal help than from a lawyer. Consult a lawyer to get personalized legal advice for your restaurant so you know exactly what you need to do. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Having smart, flexible, and predictable scheduling processes implemented across your organization is critical for staying compliant in 2019 and beyond. Don’t take shortcuts on scheduling or labor management to save a few bucks on your labor—or you may be hit with huge fees that could put you out of business.

Thankfully, in 2019, many software solutions exist to help you not only streamline your operations but help stay on top of compliance. Do your research to find the right solutions that work for your business, so you can build a more efficient, labor compliant restaurant.

Jordan Boesch is the founder and CEO of 7shifts, a scheduling and labor management app that helps restaurant operators schedule, evaluate, and communicate with their staff, founded in 2014. While the product began as a simple tool to help his dad manage the work schedule at his local franchises, it has since evolved into a leading global restaurant platform. Boesch has led 7shifts into the doors of over 10,000 restaurants with the mission to improve happiness and efficiency in the workplace.

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