Philadelphia City Council Passes “Fair Workweek” Bill and Votes to Increase Minimum Wage for City Workers and Contractors

Andrew A. Napier

On December 6, the Philadelphia City Council passed two pieces of legislation that already are being touted as altering the landscape for workers in the city, especially those in the service industry.

“Fair Workweek” Bill

The “Fair Workweek” Bill, introduced by Councilwoman Helen Gym in June, applies to large chain businesses with more than 250 employees in the retail, food, or hospitality sectors, and at least 30 locations across the country or state (“Covered Employers”). If signed it would go into effect on January 1, 2020, and will require Covered Employers to give employees (including full-time, part-time, and seasonal and temporary workers) who work within the geographical boundaries of the City, 10 days’ advance notice of their work schedule. The amount of advance notice will increase to 14 days beginning January 1, 2021. An employee may decline, without penalty, any shift that occurs less than nine hours after the end of a shift, and if the employee agrees to work the shift, the employer must pay the employee an extra $40 per shift.

With limited exceptions, Covered Employers would also be required to offer “predictability pay,” in addition to regular pay, if schedule changes are made after expiration of the advanced notice period. One hour of pay at the regular rate of payment is required every time the employer adds time to an employee’s work shift or changes the time or location of a work shift, with no loss of hours. One half-hour of pay is required for every hour subtracted from an employee’s schedule or left unworked due to a cancelled shift.

Predictability pay isn’t required if the employer changes a posted work schedule within 24 hours of its initial posting. Predictability pay also isn’t required for the following situations:

  1. the employee requests the change;
  2. the change is the result of a mutually agreed upon trade between employees;
  3. the business cannot open or continue operations due to safety concerns such as severe weather, fire, or a shutdown of public transportation;
  4. the employee begins or ends work no less than 20 minutes before or after the scheduled start or end time of the shift; or
  5. the employee hours are subtracted due to termination of employment.

The bill also contains restrictions on a Covered Employer’s ability to hire external, contract, or temporary workers when existing employees are available. Employers are required to offer existing employees shifts at least 72 hours before the shift is set to begin. If no existing employees accept the shift within 24 hours of the notice being posted, the employees decline the offer, or if existing employees are already working a subset of the slate of hours offered, the Covered Employer may hire from an external applicant pool or hire contract employees without penalty.

The proposed legislation permits “aggrieved” workers to file civil actions to enforce their rights and contemplates that class or collective actions are permissible. There is a two (2) year statute of limitations contained in the legislation.

Minimum Wage Changes

The Council also voted unanimously to raise the minimum wage for city workers and those employed by city contractors and subcontractors to $15 from $12 per hour by July 1, 2023. The bill, which was introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla on behalf of Mayor Jim Kenney, outlines a gradual increase of the minimum wage starting with $12.40 in 2019, $13.25 by 2020, $13.75 by 2021, $14.25 by 2022, and finally $15.00 by 2023. Mayor Kenney is supportive of both pieces of legislation and is expected to sign the bills shortly.

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