LOS ANGELES — A year ago, Angelica Belmont’s life felt chaotic.

She often got called in to cover afternoon shifts at a Los Angeles CVS with just a few hours’ notice. She frequently had to close the store at 10 p.m. and open at 6 a.m. the next day.

Her irregular work schedule interfered with her sleep and often left her scrambling to find someone to pick up her three kids from school.

Since last April, she and her family have had more stability, thanks to a new city law requiring that large retailers provide employees with their schedules at least two weeks in advance. L.A.’s Fair Work Week ordinance says any changes within that 14-day window must come with so-called predictability pay. Businesses must also give employees at least 10 hours of rest between shifts or provide extra pay for that work.

These days, Belmont knows her schedule three weeks ahead. For a change with less than two weeks’ notice, she earns an extra hour of pay at her regular rate of $18.78. If she agrees to work back-to-back shifts, she earns time and a half for the second shift.

She and her partner now coordinate school pickups, and she makes appointments for Tuesday and Wednesday, her days off.


“I need to have a set schedule for my kids – it’s just important,” said Belmont, 35. “I just like the stability that this has brought to my life.”

CVS strives “to ensure our employees have ample notice and predictability to their work schedules,” company spokesperson Matt Blanchette said in a written statement.

Employees in lower-wage industries are increasingly at the mercy of scheduling algorithms designed to maximize efficiency and minimize labor costs. When staffing doesn’t match expected customer demand, workers might be called in at the last minute or sent home early.

Workers are forced to bend their lives around their shifts, patching in child care, school, medical appointments, and time with family. Unpredictable work schedules lead to unstable incomes, as well as poor sleep and psychological distress, researchers at the Shift Project, an initiative from Harvard University and UC San Francisco focused on service-sector workers, have found.

L.A. is among several cities nationwide, including Seattle, New York, and Chicago, that have adopted scheduling laws – part of a growing recognition that schedules are as important to well-being as living wages and sick pay.

Of the more than 147,000 retail workers in L.A., more than three-fourths were people of color and nearly two-thirds earned low wages, according to a report from the UCLA Labor Center and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which drew on census data from 2016.


Under the L.A. law, which applies to retail chains with more than 300 employees globally, an employee must notify their employer of any violations. If the employer doesn’t correct the alleged violation within 15 days, the employee can file a complaint with the city’s Office of Wage Standards.

An employer who is found to have violated the law must pay the employee a one-time penalty of up to $500 for each violation. It must also pay the city up to $50 each day that predictability pay was unlawfully withheld.

The city started enforcing the law in October after a six-month education period. The city is investigating two reports related to the law and looking into three others to see if further investigation is required, according to Oliver Hall, a spokesperson with the Department of Public Works.

“Workers know that they have a recourse, and it provides employers with a standard that they can adhere to,” said L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price, who proposed the law. “This has been a real important step to just making sure that everybody is treated fairly and equally, and that those that are providing services that we all benefit from are treated fairly.”

Anecdotally, compliance with the city’s law appears to be mixed at this point, said Amardeep Gill, director of the grocery and retail campaign for the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, which pushed for the ordinance.

“Any policy as big as this … it takes some time,” she said, comparing the policy implementation to that of minimum wage hikes.


Gill’s team has fanned out to shopping centers to speak with retail workers – especially those who aren’t in a union. They’ve heard that some employers are complying with the law. Others aren’t informing workers of the predictability pay provision and, she said, are “doing everything in their power not to comply.”

The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles County Business Federation, the California Retailers Assn. and the California Grocers Assn. did not provide comment for this story.

Some businesses say they need the ability to adjust staffing, such as for unanticipated sporting events or bad weather, said Kristen Harknett, a UC San Francisco sociology professor who studies working conditions for hourly employees in the service sector.

But the laws don’t “limit employers from calling people in at the last minute,” Harknett said. “It’s just you have to pay them a little extra when you do.”

And there is at least one clear benefit for employers, said Harknett, who is also a principal investigator for the Shift Project.

“When schedules are more consistent and predictable, employees stick around and are more loyal, and that benefits the company,” she said.


The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a similar schedule ordinance in April, according to Lenée Richards, a spokesperson for Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

“These protections help strengthen our workforce and will allow employees, many of whom are low-income earners from communities of color, to better care for their families and themselves by having increased control and predictability over their own schedules,” Mitchell said in a written statement.

In the meantime, Jasmine Brandon, a 30-year-old part-time clerk at a Food4Less in the unincorporated L.A. County community of Willowbrook, must check an app or visit the store on Friday afternoons to find out her schedule for the following week. She makes $17 an hour and doesn’t work any set days or shifts.

A representative for Food4Less didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Sometimes Brandon closes the store, and sometimes she opens. Occasionally, she works those shifts back-to-back, picking up her 2-year-old son from child care and commuting by bus or rideshare.

She feels perpetually tired and stressed. With her schedule constantly changing, she can’t nail down medical appointments for her son and teenage daughter, or a regular therapy appointment for herself.

“There is no consistency at all,” she said. “You have to pretty much work around their schedule.”

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