Employers Need to Be Aware of Chicago’s New Fair Workweek Ordinance


Employers in Chicago should be aware that the City’s new Fair Workweek Ordinance went into effect on July 1, 2020.  The statute has received very little attention to date, both because of COVID-19 and because the City has not permitted employees to assert violations of the ordinance for the first six (6) months of the law’s effective period.  However, on January 1, 2021, employees will have the right to file grievances with the City’s Office of Labor Standards, and will further have the opportunity to file private lawsuits alleging violations of the ordinance if their administrative grievances with the City do not provide satisfaction. Accordingly, employers operating within the city limits of Chicago will need to be familiar with the requirements of this new law.

The Fair Workweek Ordinance requires certain employers to give certain employees at least ten (10) days’ advance notice of their schedules, which increases to fourteen (14) days on July 1, 2022.  If an employer makes changes to the schedule within that period, the employer must give the employee an hour of “predictability pay” at the regular wage rate.  At the same time, if the employer cancels or reduces hours within 24 hours of the start of a previously scheduled shift, it must pay workers half of what they would have earned during that shift.

The penalties described above are in addition to fines payable to the City of $300.00 to $500.00 for each violation of the notice requirements.  An employee who prevails in a private lawsuit is also entitled to damages including reasonable attorneys’ fees.  Defensively, there are some exceptions or “outs” for the employer with regard to the notice requirements, including employee shift-trading, written consent, workplace discipline, and unexpected situations that are beyond the employer’s control (including a pandemic).

It is worth noting that there are some ancillary provisions of the statute as well.  The ordinance includes a “right to rest” provision that gives employees the right to decline work hours that start no less than then (10) hours after the end of a shift.  Employers are required to get written consent from workers willing to work such shifts and pay them premium pay to work (1.25x the regular wage rate).  The law also requires that employers offer extra hours to part-time workers before hiring new people.  If part-time workers decline these hours, employers must offer them to temporary or seasonal workers before hiring new employees.

The ordinance covers employers in Chicago with more than 100 employees globally who perform work in any of the following sectors:  health care, hotels, manufacturing, retail, warehouses, building services, and restaurants.  In the case of restaurants, covered employers must have at least 30 locations and more than 250 employees globally.  Non-profit organizations in the above sectors with more than 250 employees are also covered, as are franchisees with more than four (4) locations.

Covered employees under the ordinance are those who work for a covered employer, and who make less than $26.00 per hour, or less than $50,000.00 per year.  All employees who do not surpass these earning levels qualify for the statute’s protection if they work for a covered employer.

As noted above, the statute was passed on July 1, 2020, although employees have not been permitted to allege violations for the past six (6) months.  This protection for employers disappears on January 1, 2021, so covered employers are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with this new law.

If your business needs advice or assistance complying with Chicago’s new Fair Workweek Ordinance, please contact the Labor & Employment Group at Burke, Warren, MacKay & Serritella without delay.

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