On December 1, 2015, the D.C. Council introduced legislation that would establish standards for retail and food service employers in D.C.  The legislation, the Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015 (Bill B21-0512) (the “Act”) seeks to impose a host of new protections for employees of large retail and restaurant chains.  D.C. Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Orange, and Elissa Silverman introduced the Act, which was co-sponsored by Councilmembers Charles Allen, David Grasso, LaRuby May, and Brandon Todd.

The Act applies to retail employers with at least five stores nationwide and to fast food and full service restaurants that have at least 20 eateries nationwide.  The legislation requires covered employers to offer available hours to qualified current employees before hiring new employees or subcontractors.  This measure is aimed at promoting full-time work opportunities.

In addition, under the Act, employers would be required to post work schedules 21 days in advance and compensate workers between one and four hours’ pay if schedules are changed by the employer.  Any change would need to be communicated to the affected employee prior to the change taking effect, and a revised written work schedule must be provided within 24 hours of when the change is made.  Furthermore, under the proposed law, if the covered employer seeks to add work to the schedule, the employee may refuse such work.  If the employee accepts the shift, such acceptance must be in writing.

The legislation would also require that covered employers ensure that employees who hold similar jobs are treated equally with regard to hourly wages, eligibility to accrue employer-provided benefits, and promotion opportunities regardless of hours worked.  Any effort to retaliate against workers for exercising their rights under the law would be prohibited.  The legislation provides that employees can bring administrative claims or file claims in court for violations of the Act.

Last year, San Francisco passed similar legislation, and similar bills are under consideration in Massachusetts, New York, and California, as well as in Congress.

On December 11, 2015, Councilmember Orange announced that the D.C. Council will hold its first public hearing on Wednesday, January 13, 2016 to discuss the Act.  This hearing will be open to any individual or representative of any organization who wishes to testify about the Act.  In addition, the D.C. Council will accept written statements from the public which will be made part of the official record.

The D.C. Council has been increasingly active in raising (and passing) new employee-friendly laws.  In the past 18 months, the D.C. Council has passed the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act, Protecting Pregnant Workers Fairness Act of 2014, Fair Criminal Record Screening Act of 2014, and Wage Transparency Amendment Act, and has recently proposed a scheme to provide D.C. employees with 16 weeks of paid sick leave. D.C. employers need to stay abreast of the rapidly changing landscape of employment law in the District of Columbia and take steps to ensure they are in compliance.