New York City Fair Workweek Laws: What to Know


Shyft’s quick compliance kit for New York’s Fair Workweek laws is here! You can download it now, for free, by filling out the form below (bottom of the page), or read on for more information about the new laws. 

New York City’s “Fair Workweek Laws” went into effect on November 26, 2017. New York became the fourth city – San Francisco, Seattle, and Emeryville (CA) were the first three –  to pass a comprehensive set of laws that governs how shift workers’ schedules should be set and distributed. New York’s laws only govern retail businesses and fast food restaurants, but the laws are part of a growing trend towards giving shift workers predictable schedules.

Predictable scheduling allows employees working shifts or part-time hours the ability to plan their budgets and schedules with more certainty around how much money they will make, and when they will work.

New York’s Fair Workweek laws encourage employers to give two weeks notice (14 days) of notice for all shifts. As a shift gets nearer, employers either lose the ability to reschedule or cancel a shift, or a premium payment must be made to employees that have their schedules change. How this actually works differs by industry.

Retail workers have their shifts “locked in” when there is less than 72 hours until a shift begins. If a manager tries to cancel their shift, they still receive some payment for that shift. Changing a shift or adding hours can only come at the employee’s request.

For fast food workers, shift changes can still be made, but they carry “premium” payments. Changes to an employee’s schedule comes with an extra payment. The premium payment amount increases the closer the shift is.


One of the biggest changes for fast food workers is the elimination of “clopening” hours. A clopening (closing, and then opening the restaurant) shift is a generally terrible experience that restaurant workers have often endured. The new laws essentially eliminate these shifts from being scheduled, as they require that workers be given 11 hours between when a shift ends and the next one begins. 11 hours is enough time for someone to go home, shower and get some rest, but it gets better: If a worker is forced to work one of these shifts (perhaps to cover for a sick employee), they receive a nice $600 in damages and premiums.

Posting Notices

If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen or had a part-time job, you may have heard grumblings from coworkers about labor laws, or “I think that’s illegal…” The new laws require that posters be put up in the workplace, where all employees can see them, to educate employees about their new rights. This should give employees the confidence to make sure they get their schedules on time, and premium payments they deserve, without risking any blowback or retaliation.


As part of making sure employees are treated properly under the new laws, fast food restaurants and retail shops now have the requirement to keep a number of records for three years: All schedules sent out to employees, any updates to schedules, any employees written consent or requests to work new shifts, good faith estimates, and more. These recordkeeping requirements are detailed on our Instant Checklists, so managers and employers can be sure about what records and communication they need to document. (The Shyft app handles recordkeeping automatically!)

Advance Scheduling

In both fast food and retail industries, employees should now be receiving their schedules 14 days in advance, and they should have pretty consistent hours that match up with the good faith estimates. In restaurants, managers can change these shifts after they’ve been issued, but there are premiums that get paid to the employees for any changes.

Shift Swapping

In retail businesses, changes can be made to an employee’s shifts, but only up to 72 hours in advance of the shift. Beyond that, changes can only be made to a shift if they come from an employee’s request. This means that shift swapping is legal for managers. For example, if Becky and Tim want to swap shifts with each other, they provide notice to their manager that they’d like to swap, and the manager can update their schedules. This would generally require a new schedule to be distributed to employees.

Schedule Distribution

All schedules need to be posted in an area of the restaurant or store that employees have access to. When shifts are changed or swapped, this posting needs to be updated with the new dates, hours, locations, etc. Additionally, if the primary means of communication is via email, text, a facebook group, or some other electronic medium, the schedules also must be updated and distributed to the relevant employees electronically. The Shyft app handles this communication and has simple tools for employees to swap shifts with easily – all Fair Workweek compliant.

New Shifts / Access to Hours

If a retail business is adding new shifts (say, for the Christmas season, or for a new location that is about to open), current employees must be given the first access to those shifts. These shifts must be properly presented to current employees before the business can even begin to advertise for new employees. If a current employee is qualified for the new position, they are generally entitled to take the new shifts, even if it means abandoning the other shifts that they currently have. For example, if Shaun works as the dishwasher on Monday to Friday mornings, but the restaurant wants to hire someone to work the food prep station Monday to Friday afternoons, Shaun can apply to work that new shift if he meets the hiring requirements. If the restaurant moves Shaun to that new shift, they must post a new notice to their employees that they are looking for a dishwasher, Monday to Friday mornings, before they begin advertising that position.

Eligibility – Is Fair Workweek For My Business?

There are a number of criteria that a business must meet for it to be governed by New York’s Fair Work Week laws. A retail business must primarily be engaged in selling consumer goods. A fast food restaurant needs to have a certain number of employees or belong to an ownership group with a certain number of employees. Additionally, eligibility can be determined by things like a collective bargaining agreement, where employees physically work, and even the branding and marketing of a business.

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