‘Fair Workweek’ Law Takes Full Effect After 6-Month Delay Caused by Pandemic

(ongchinonn / Pixabay)(ongchinonn / Pixabay)

Chicago employers who are required to give their workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules in an effort to reduce the stress caused by unpredictable shift work can be sued when the law takes full effect Friday after a six-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot backed the law, which stalled for two years under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, calling it a needed tool to protect workers in Chicago, many of whom earn the city’s minimum wage and fear losing their jobs if they cannot take on additional shifts at their managers’ request.

The law will also cover workers at Chicago’s safety-net hospitals as of Friday.

Business groups blasted the law as an expensive mandate that would hurt businesses struggling to stay afloat. After the coronavirus pandemic forced many businesses to close in mid-March, Lightfoot agreed to revise the law — set to take effect July 1 — to spare employers from lawsuits until Jan. 1.

Even though employers could not be sued, the city’s Office of Labor Standards is investigating 82 complaints about violations of the law by 49 employers, according to Isaac Richman, a spokesperson for the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter Jr. said he was pleased the ordinance was in full effect.

“These laws will help parents care for their children, families care for elderly relatives, and students plan their studies,” Reiter said in a statement. “Chicago’s workers are the greatest in the world, and we are proud to support them through this law.”

Shortly after taking office, Lightfoot made the so-called fair workweek ordinance one of her top priorities, and hailed its passage in July 2019 as a major accomplishment that would protect workers struggling to make ends meet.

The law requires employers to give their workers 10 days’ advance notice of their schedules; that time frame will increase to 14 days by 2022.

Employees also have the right to decline to work previously unscheduled hours, or be paid for an additional hour of work if their schedules change within 10 days. In addition, workers have the right to decline to start a new shift less than 10 hours after the end of the previous day’s shift, according to the ordinance.

Covered by the measure are employees who work in building services, health care, hotels, manufacturing, restaurants, retail and warehouse services industries who earn less than $26 per hour or $50,000 per year, and employers who have at least 100 employees globally. The law applies to restaurants that have 250 or more employees and 30 locations.

In addition, the start of 2021 will pinch Chicagoans’ wallets.

As part of a package designed to close a $1.2 billion budget deficit, Chicago’s 5-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax will rise to 8 cents per gallon on Friday. That will likely add 36 cents to the bill for 12 gallons of gas, according to city officials.

Lead-footed Chicagoans will also soon find themselves ticketed for traveling between 6 mph and 9 mph faster than the speed limit near Chicago parks and schools monitored by speed cameras. 

City officials have not yet announced when they will begin enforcing that change, but drivers will get one written warning before they have to pay $35 to resolve the infraction.

Drivers snapped traveling 11 mph over the limit will face a $100 ticket, unchanged from previous years. Drivers cited for going 10 mph over the limit already face the $35 ticket.

The budget plan also calls for the city to install meters covering about 750 parking spots on the North Side.

However, Chicago taxpayers won’t have to dig deeper to cover the $94 million property tax hike included in the city’s 2021 budget. That increase won’t appear on tax bills until 2022, since the payments lag the tax levy by a year.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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