Seattle scheduling law to take effect July 1

by Chelsea Petersen and Stephanie Holstein

An ordinance affecting how large retail and food services employers in Seattle schedule workers is set to take effect July 1.

The ordinance applies to employers in the retail and food services industries (defined broadly to include restaurants, food trucks, bars, and caterers) with 500 or more employees worldwide or, for franchises, within the franchise network. In addition to the 500-employee requirement, full-service restaurants (that is, restaurants where patrons order and are served while seated) are covered by the ordinance only if they have 40 or more physical locations.

Covered employers will have to comply with numerous requirements:

  • Right to request input into work schedules. Employers must engage in an interactive process with employees who request not to be scheduled for certain shifts or shifts at certain locations. Employees have the right to identify preferences for the hours and location of work. If requests are due to “major life events” (including issues with an employee’s transportation or housing, serious health condition, childcare responsibilities, enrollment in training or education programs, or second job), the employer must grant the requests unless it has a bona fide business reason for denying them.
  • Right to rest between work shifts. Employers must provide employees at least 10 hours off between shifts unless employees consent. If an employee consents, the employer must pay him 1½ times his regular rate of pay for hours worked that are less than 10 hours apart.
  • Advance notice of work schedule. Employers must provide employees with a written work schedule at least 14 days before the first day of the work schedule. Employees may decline to work any hours not included in the schedule.
  • Compensation for work schedule changes. If an employer adds hours to an employee’s schedule or changes her shift with no loss of hours without providing 14 days’ notice, the employer must provide her one hour of pay in addition to wages earned. If the employer cancels some or all of an employee’s hours without proper notice, it must pay half her regular hourly rate for all hours lost. There are certain exceptions to those two rules.
  • Compensation for on-call shifts. An employer must pay an employee one-half her regular hourly rate for any scheduled hours she does not work after the employer schedules her for an on-call shift for which she does not have to report to work.
  • Access to hours for existing employees. When hours become available, an employer must offer additional hours to existing employees and post written notices of newly available hours for at least three consecutive days before hiring new employees.
  • Good-faith estimate of work schedule. An employer must provide new employees with a good-faith estimate of their future work schedules and provide updates annually or sooner if it expects a significant change to the estimate.

The administrative rules for the ordinance can be found on the city of Seattle’s website.

For more information on the Seattle scheduling ordinance, see the October 2016 issue of Washington Employment Law Letter.

Chelsea Petersen and Stephanie Holstein are attorneys with Perkins Coie LLP in Seattle. They can be reached at or