Late last month, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law aimed at retail workers, which was hailed by labor rights advocates as the first of its kind in the country. The law has been called the “retailer workers’ bill of rights”, and all 11 members of the board passed it unanimously.

The law requires San Francisco’s large chain retailers to post workers’ schedules at least two weeks ahead of time. If changes are made to workers’ schedules unexpectedly, they will be owed supplemental pay. If the workers are required to be on call, but their shifts are suddenly canceled, they will also be owed supplemental pay. In addition, employers are also required to offer any extra hours they have in their schedule to their current employees, rather than hiring part-time or temporary workers. The new law applies to chain stores with 20 or more locations worldwide, and who also have 20 or more employees in San Francisco. Therefore, most small, family-owned businesses would not be affected.

Labor rights groups are hailing the law as a victory, while those opposed to the law, including business groups, say that the law interferes with the ability of employers to determine hours and make staffing decisions. The law’s opponents also say that the negotiations were handled behind closed doors. It’s been estimated that the law will apply to 40,000 hourly employees in the San Francisco area.

According to activists who pushed for the law, the law was in response to the use by retailers of on-call and just-in-time scheduling. Although that may help retailers keep costs down, it makes workers’ hours very unreliable. It can make it hard to plan for childcare or a reliable income, or to take on a second job. About half of all hourly workers report that it is very hard to control their work hours. Just-in-time scheduling uses computer software to analyze a number of factors, such as hourly sales, weather, and even traffic to determine how to maximize revenue.

The law was also proposed in response to recent economic trends. More workers have been underemployed than usual and only working part-time, although they wanted more hours. The law will help those workers by requiring employers to offer extra hours first to employees.

Although San Francisco was the first to pass this type of law, other cities and states are considering similar laws, including Washington, D.C., New York, New York City, Michigan, Minnesota, and Delaware. A similar law has been introduced at the federal level, but has not progressed in Congress, and the representative who introduced it will soon be retiring.

Polls show that most voters are very sympathetic to the plight of minimum wage workers. Raises for minimum wage workers and mandates for sick leave have recently been overwhelmingly approved in the San Francisco area. Many experts are guessing that other cities and states will soon follow suit in offering expanded rights to minimum wage and low-paid workers.

While this law is being hailed by many, it’s likely that some establishments will fail to follow it. When that happens, the employer is breaking the law, and can be held legally liable in court. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees whose employers are not obeying the law should hold their employers responsible. Employers may be forced to pay back pay and benefits, as well as other penalties.

If you employer is violating your legal rights, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She can help you with your case in the Oakland-San Francisco area, including Tracy, Hayward, Fairfield, San Jose, Berkeley and the surrounding cities. Call to schedule your free consultation.

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