As an employer, there are few things more important than your employee schedule. When you build your schedule, you set which employees are going to be on site (or on call) during the workday, how many team members you’ll need throughout the workweek (and when you’ll need them), and the total number of hours you’ll need to allocate for payroll and labor costs.
But things change—and you may need to change your schedule at the last minute.
What do you do in that situation? If you do need to make last-minute scheduling changes, what labor laws or employment laws do you need to follow? How far in advance do you have to post a work schedule in the state of California—and what happens if you have to change that schedule after you post it?
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about scheduling laws in California—when you have to post your employee work schedule, how much notice you need to give your team about their scheduled shifts, and what to do if you have to switch up your employee schedule after it’s already been posted:
Understanding federal laws around employee scheduling
First things first—before we jump into employee schedule laws in the state of California, let’s quickly cover what the laws are surrounding scheduling on a federal level.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are allowed to change an employee’s schedule at will, without any advance notice or the requirement to post the schedule in advance. According to the Department of Labor, “an employer may change an employee’s work hours without giving prior notice or obtaining the employee’s consent (unless otherwise subject to a prior agreement between the employer and employee or the employee’s representative).”
So that means that under federal law, unless there is an existing collective bargaining agreement in place that states the employee will get advanced notice on scheduling or scheduling changes, the employer really holds the power when it comes to scheduling (as long as their scheduling doesn’t violate any other relevant labor laws, like overtime laws).
California state employee scheduling laws
So, federal law allows employers to make, post, and change employee schedules at their discretion. But what about the state level—and, more specifically, in the state of California?
Certain states have enacted laws (called “predictive scheduling laws”) to protect employee rights and put restrictions around employee schedules, including when employers need to post them and how long employers have to make changes. For example, under Oregon state law, employers are required to give their employees at least seven calendar days advance notice of any changes to their schedule. And in Washington, D.C.? That time frame increases to 21 days.
So, the question is, what does California law say about employee scheduling?
Technically, California doesn’t have any predictive scheduling laws. While a number of bills have been introduced to the California legislature (like most recently, SB 850, better known as the Fair Scheduling Act of 2020), to date, none have officially been signed into law.
But while there are no predictive scheduling laws at the state level, there are local jurisdictions that have passed their own predictive scheduling ordinances for certain businesses; for example, in San Francisco, under the Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinance Act, which aims to protect non-exempt employees and part-time employees working in retail establishments, employers must provide their employees with schedules two weeks in advance. San Jose, Berkeley and Emeryville are the other California cities that have established laws around scheduling workers.
Like San Francisco, Emeryville requires two weeks advance notice for scheduling shifts. Meanwhile, San Jose and Berkeley do not require advance notice, though they have implemented certain rules around scheduling. In Berkeley, employees can request flexibility in their schedule twice a year or in response to a major life event, while in San Jose employers must offer additional hours to part-time employees before hiring more staff. Remember, there are stipulations around which businesses must comply with these laws, and additional details on doing so. Be sure to check local regulations for more information.
It’s also important to note that while California doesn’t have statewide predictive scheduling laws, they do have statewide restrictions around employee scheduling. For example, if an employee reports for a scheduled shift and you end up sending them home or cutting their hours, you’ll need to pay them for half of their scheduled day’s work at their regular rate of pay, which is known as “reporting time pay.”
How far in advance do California employers have to post employee work schedules?
So, bottom line: how far in advance do California employers have to post employee work schedules?
And the answer is—it depends.
If your business operates in an area that has its own local predictive scheduling ordinances, you’ll need to post your schedule in accordance with those ordinances.
But if you operate your business in an area without any predictive scheduling ordinances, essentially, you can post your employee’s work schedule whenever you’d like. And as long as scheduling changes are in line with any existing employment contract you have with your employee or any relevant labor laws (like the reporting time pay rule we covered earlier), you can also make changes to your employee schedules as you see fit.
Why you should always try to post your employee schedule in advance
As mentioned, by state law, you’re not required to post your employee schedule at any time. But even though there’s not a requirement to give your employees their schedules in advance, you should always aim to give them as much advance notice of their scheduled shifts as possible.
Your employees have to schedule the rest of their lives around their hours of work. If they’re only getting a few days notice of the upcoming workweek’s schedule, it could make it harder to plan for things like childcare and transportation (which is already challenging in the midst of COVID-19).
Giving your employees their work schedule well in advance will give them the time and space they need to plan their life accordingly—and will make for better employee relations between your team, yourself, and your human resources department.
So while last minute scheduling issues may come up once in a while, as a rule, give them as many days notice on their scheduled shifts and any schedule changes as soon as you possibly can.