The New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”) recently issued proposed statewide regulations that would require employers to pay employees “call-in pay” when employers use “on call” scheduling or change employees’ work shifts on short notice. This is not the DOL’s first foray into this area – in November 2017, the DOL released similar proposed regulations but ultimately declined to adopt them. The DOL’s new set of proposed regulations would apply to the vast majority of employers operating in New York, but are of particular interest to New York City retail employers, who regularly use “on call” scheduling, and who are already subject to the New York City Fair Workweek laws.

When Would Employers Have to Pay Call-In Pay?

The proposed regulations would require employers to pay their employees “call-in pay” under the following five circumstances:

  • Reporting to work: An employee who reports to work for any shift at the request or permission of the employer must receive four hours of call-in pay.
  • Unscheduled shift: An employee who reports to work at the request or permission of the employer for a shift that was not scheduled at least 14 days in advance must receive two hours of call-in pay.
  • Cancelled shift: An employee whose shift is canceled by the employer within 14 days of the start of the shift must receive two hours of call-in pay. If the employee’s shift is cancelled within 72 hours of its scheduled start, the employee must receive four hours of call-in pay.
  • On-call: An employee who is required by the employer to be available to report to work for any shift must receive four hours of call-in pay.
  • Call for schedule: An employee who is required to contact the employer within 72 hours of the start of a shift to confirm whether to report to work must receive four hours of call-in pay.

Call-in pay for time that an employee actually attends work should be calculated at the employee’s regular rate or overtime rate of pay. All other call-in pay should be calculated at the basic minimum hourly rate with no allowances.

Exceptions to the Call-In Pay Requirements

The proposed regulations do include a number of exceptions to the call-in pay requirement, including the following:

  • The proposed regulations do not apply to employees who are covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that expressly provides for call-in pay.
  • An employee would not be entitled to call-in pay during any work week in which his or her weekly wages exceed 40 times the applicable basic hourly minimum wage rate.
  • Employers do not need to pay call-in pay for unscheduled shifts for new employees during their first two weeks of employment, or for any employee who volunteers to cover a new or previously scheduled shift.
  • In the event that an employer responds to a weather or other travel advisory by offering employees the option to voluntarily reduce or increase their scheduled hours (i.e., arrive early/late, depart early/late), the employer does not need to pay call-in pay for employees’ unscheduled or canceled shifts.
  • An employer does not need to pay call-in pay when it cancels a shift at the employee’s request for time off, or due to an act of god or other cause outside the employer’s control.

Special Note for New York City Retail Employers

Retail employers operating in New York City are already subject to the Fair Workweek laws, which took effect in November 2017. Under the City law, retail businesses must schedule employees’ shifts at least 72 hours in advance, and cannot add or cancel shifts with less than 72 hours’ notice. In addition, retailers generally cannot require employees to come to work with less than 72 hours’ notice, or require them to call in within fewer than 72 hours before the start of a shift to determine if they should come to work. The DOL’s proposed regulations, however, would permit employers to take these very same actions as long as they pay employees the correct amount of call-in pay. The DOL’s proposed regulations do not address this potential conflict with the New York City Fair Workweek laws, or any other potential impact on the existing City law.

The comment period on the DOL’s proposed regulations has closed, and we can expect that they could be adopted as early as the first quarter of this year. It is more likely that the DOL will adopt these regulations on this go-round – especially given the current political climate within New York State (including the most recent mid-term elections, which put Democrats in control of the state legislature). We will keep you updated with any further developments. If the regulations are adopted, all New York employers – particularly retail employers in New York City – should contact counsel to ensure that their policies are updated and in compliance.

Featured on Employment Law This Week – New York City has enacted “fair workweek” legislation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has signed a package of bills into law limiting scheduling flexibility for fast-food and retail employers. New York City is the third major city in the United States, after San Francisco and Seattle, to enact this kind of legislation. The bills require fast-food employers to provide new hires with good-faith estimates of the number of hours that they will work per week and to pay workers a premium for scheduling changes made less than 14 days in advance.

Watch the segment below, featuring our colleague Jeffrey Landes from Epstein Becker Green. Also see our colleague John O’Connor’s recent post, “New York City Tells Fast Food Employees: ‘You Deserve a Break Today’ by Enacting New Fair Workweek Laws,” on the Hospitality Labor and Employment Law blog.

On May 24, 2017, the New York City Council signed a bill banning retail employers in New York City from utilizing “on-call scheduling.” Given the unpredictable fluctuations in customer flow associated with retail business operations, retail employers have historically utilized “on-call” schedules in an effort to manage labor costs associated with running their businesses. Rather than provide employees with fixed work schedules, many retail employers place employees “on-call,” requiring them to call in shortly before their work shift is to start to ascertain if they need to actually report to work.  The conflicting interests between retail employers and their employees posed by “on call” scheduling is obvious.  Retail employers favor the use of “on-call’ scheduling because it enables them to tailor their workforce to customer needs and avoid excessive labor costs.  Employees disfavor “on-call” scheduling for a variety of reasons.  First, they are not able to accurately predict their income because they are uncertain as to the number of hours they will actually work each week.  Second, the lack of rigid work schedule impacts their ability to plan their day-to-day life. Because they are not certain when they will be required to work, their ability to schedule appointments, attend regular school obligations, or hold a second employment position are impaired.

In January 2015, San Francisco became the first city to pass predictive scheduling legislation, requiring retail employers in that City to pay employees for cancelled on-call shifts and provide notice to their employees of their biweekly schedules. In September 2016, Seattle followed suit, enacting legislation mirroring that in San Francisco.  Similar predictive scheduling legislation is presently pending at the federal level as well as in no less than twelve states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island).  By adopting this new law banning on-call scheduling, New York City becomes the most recent jurisdiction to seek to protect retail employees’ interests despite the increased operating costs such predictive scheduling legislation may impose on retail employers

Pursuant to the new law, retail employers in New York City now have to post employees’ work schedules at least 72 hours before the beginning of the scheduled hours of work. The law also precludes retail employers from cancelling, changing or adding work shifts within 72 hours of the start of the shift (except in limited cases).  Moreover, each retail employee must be scheduled for no less than 20 hours of work during each 14-day period.  In a press release in which he praised the New York City Council for passing the bill and in which he expressed his intent to immediately sign the law, Mayor de Blasio claimed that the law “will ensure that workers will be able to budget for the week ahead, schedule childcare, and plan evening classes.” While the law is clearly intended to help retail employees better balance their professional and personal lives, the strict scheduling requirements will challenge New York City’s retail employers to develop new means of managing their businesses impacted by the unpredictability posed by seasonal demand, customer fluctuation, weather, holidays, employee turnover issues, and other variations in day-to-day retail operations.

Employment Law This Week – a new video program from Epstein Becker Green – has a story this week about on-call shifts and the challenges they’re facing in court.

Both BCBG and Forever 21 have been hit with class-action wage theft suits over on-call scheduling. Many retailers are ending this practice, including Urban Outfitters, which was cited for possible violations of New York’s requirement to pay hourly staff for at least four hours when they report for work.


Click above or watch on YouTube or Vimeo – or download: MP4 or WMV.