Before changing your employees’ schedules, you must understand the relevant legal requirements. Learn about the laws and regulations you must comply with when altering schedules. 

Table of contents
  1. What Are Schedule Changes?
  2. Federal Labor Laws on Schedule Changes
  3. State and local labor laws on schedule changes
  4. Collective Bargaining Agreements and Employment Contracts
  5. Scheduling Changes FAQ
  6. A Word of Warning for Employers
  7. Other Laws To Consider When Changing Employee Work Schedules
  8. The Bottom Line on Schedule Change Laws
  9. Disclaimer

Changing employees’ schedules can be unavoidable.

But beware—depending on the location of your business, strict laws may dictate how and when you can make schedule alterations. Non-compliance can lead to fines and legal action. 

In this article, we look at the federal, state, and local laws regarding schedule changes to help you stay compliant.  

Key Takeaways

  • Laws in Oregon and several cities dictate how and when you can change employees’ schedules, while federal law doesn’t regulate employer-led schedule changes.
  • Provisions in collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts may also address how you must handle schedule changes.
  • You must consider other laws—such as overtime, reporting pay, and child labor laws—when altering worker schedules.
  • As an employer, you must understand your legal obligations to reduce the risk of penalties or lawsuits.

What Are Schedule Changes?

Schedule changes are alterations to a previously published employee work schedule. They can be employer or employee-led and include situations where:

  • An employer changes the start or end time of an employee’s shift. 
  • An employer asks the employee to work extra shifts. 
  • An employer cancels the employee’s scheduled shifts. 
  • An employee requests to swap shifts or not work a particular shift. 

Various laws regulate schedule changes, especially employer-led changes.

Federal Labor Laws on Schedule Changes

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets out federal wage and hour laws and applies to most employers. 

The FLSA doesn’t require employers to notify employees or ask their permission when making schedule changes. The only exceptions to this are where there’s a collective bargaining agreement or other agreement that states otherwise. 

State and local labor laws on schedule changes

While federal law is largely silent on the issue, Oregon and several cities in other states have fair workweek laws

These laws (sometimes also referred to as predictive scheduling laws) may address 1 or more of the following:

  • Requirements for employers to provide good faith estimates of work hours when hiring employees. 
  • Employees’ right to request specific shifts based on their availability (while no law requires an employer to accommodate these requests, they may be required to consider them).
  • Advance notice of work schedules and schedule changes. 
  • Minimum break times between shifts and higher pay rates for employees who work clopening shifts (a shift where an employee closes the business late at night and then opens it early the next morning). 
  • Employees’ right to refuse last-minute schedule changes. 
  • Requirements for employers to offer extra hours to current employees before hiring new staff. 
  • Predictability pay—premium pay rates for last-minute schedule changes. 
  • Recordkeeping requirements. 

These laws typically apply to specific types of employers or employees. They mainly target employees working in the retail, hospitality, and food services industries—where last-minute schedule changes are common. 

The following states and cities currently have fair workweek laws:

  • Oregon (state-wide).
  • Berkeley, California.
  • Emeryville, California.
  • Los Angeles, California.
  • San Francisco, California.
  • San Jose, California.
  • Chicago, Illinois.
  • Evanston, Illinois.
  • New York City, New York.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
  • Seattle, Washington.

💡 Pro Tip:

New predictive scheduling laws are constantly being enacted. For example, Evanston’s Fair Workweek Ordinance recently came into effect on January 1, 2024. There are also efforts at the federal level to introduce a nationwide fair workweek law called the Schedules That Work Act. Look for any developments in this space that may affect your business.  

Examples of local fair workweek laws


Oregon’s predictive scheduling laws apply to retail, hospitality, or food service employers with 500 or more employees worldwide. 

These employers must:

  • Give new employees a good-faith estimate of their work schedules in writing at the time of hire.
  • Provide employees with a written schedule at least 14 days before their first shift. Employees have the right to refuse any shifts added to their schedule. 
  • Allow employees to provide their availability and request not to work specific shifts or locations. While employers don’t have to grant these requests, they can’t retaliate against employees for making them. 
  • Give employees at least 10 hours between shifts. If an employee agrees to work a clopening shift with less than 10 hours rest before, the employer must pay them 1.5 times their regular rate of pay. 

Employers must also pay predictability pay for schedule changes with less than 14 days’ notice. 

Additional pay is calculated at one hour of an employee’s regular rate of pay (in addition to their earned wages) where an employer:

  • Extends a shift by more than 30 minutes.
  • Changes the date, start, or end time of a shift without reducing total work hours.
  • Adds a work or on-call shift to an employee’s schedule. 

Additional pay is 1.5 times an employee’s regular rate of pay for each scheduled hour not worked because an employer:

  • Takes hours off a shift.
  • Changes the date, start, or end time of a shift, which reduces the employee’s total work hours.
  • Cancels a shift.
  • Doesn’t ask an employee scheduled for an on-call shift to work. 

New York City

New York’s Fair Workweek Law requires retail employers with at least 20 employees to provide them with predictable work schedules. 

Under this law, employers must provide employees with their schedules at least 72 hours in advance. Employers can’t cancel a shift with less than 72 hours’ notice, and employees have to work additional hours with less notice only if they consent. 

On-call shifts are prohibited. 

Under the recordkeeping requirements, employers must keep electronic records of the following for each worker for 3 years:

  • Hours worked each week.
  • Date, time, and location of each shift worked.
  • Written consent to schedule changes where necessary.
  • Written schedules provided to employees.

New York’s Fair Workweek Law also applies to fast food employers with at least 30 locations worldwide, though the rules for these workers differ. For example, they must be given a regular schedule and 14 days’ notice of their schedules.

Regular schedules can be changed in advance only if the employee requests or agrees to the alterations. Employers must also pay them between $10 and $75 for any shift changes made with less than 14 days’ notice. 

Evanston, Illinois

In Evanston, the Fair Workweek Ordinance covers hospitality, retail, warehouse, manufacturing, and building businesses with 100 or more employees. It also covers food service and restaurant employers with at least 200 employees and 30 locations worldwide. 

Employers must:

  • Provide new hires with a good faith estimate of their work hours at the time of hire.
  • Give employees 14 days’ notice of their work schedules.
  • Pay employees predictability pay for any employer-initiated shift changes or cancellations with less than 14 days’ notice.
  • Pay predictability pay to employees who agree to work clopening shifts with less than an 11-hour rest period before.
  • Repost schedules that are changed.
  • Offer extra hours to current employees before hiring new staff to ensure that existing employees work at least 35 hours a week before new staff are brought in.
  • Keep records of employees’ hours, pay rates, and any other information that shows compliance with the Ordinance for 3 years. 

📚 This Might Interest You:

Check out our state-by-state guide to predictive scheduling laws

States that have prohibited local fair workweek laws

Conversely, some states have passed laws banning local governments from introducing fair workweek or predictive scheduling laws. These states include:

Collective Bargaining Agreements and Employment Contracts

Collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts may also address scheduling, including minimum notice for work schedules and changes, consent requirements, and predictability pay.

Where a collective bargaining or employment contract applies, employers must also follow the relevant requirements in them. 

Scheduling Changes FAQ

Can an employer change a work schedule without notice?

Yes, unless a local fair workweek law, collective bargaining agreement, or employment contract says otherwise, employers can generally change employees’ schedules without notice. Under the FLSA, employers are free to change employees’ schedules. 

Can an employer change a schedule last minute?

Yes, employers can typically make last-minute changes to employee schedules. However, a local fair workweek law, collective bargaining agreement, or employment contract may allow the employee to refuse the change or the employer to pay predictability pay. 

Can an employer force an employee to change their shift?

Yes. Under federal law, employers can require employees to change their shifts. Employers don’t have to provide a reason or give a certain amount of notice. Under at-will employment, the employer can likely terminate the employee for refusing to accept a shift change. However, there may be exceptions to this where a local fair workweek law, collective bargaining agreement, or employment contract states otherwise. 

Is it illegal to change an employee’s hours?

No. It’s not illegal for an employer to change an employee’s hours. However, the employer must ensure that any change complies with the requirements under any relevant local fair workweek law, collective bargaining agreement, or employment contract. 

Is it illegal to schedule an employee outside of their availability?

No. There is no law in the US that requires employers to schedule employees according to their availability. Some predictive scheduling laws make employers consider employee schedule change requests and prevent them from retaliating against employees for these requests, but they aren’t required to comply with these requests. 

A Word of Warning for Employers

Employers have a lot of leeway to change employee schedules, especially where local fair workweek laws don’t apply. 

But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Schedule changes disrupt employees’ personal lives, including their childcare arrangements, personal appointments, and social plans. 

Plus, these changes can create more scheduling issues than they solve. Employees who experience last-minute schedule changes or are assigned shifts outside their availability may call in sick, for example. 

Overall, changes—especially last-minute ones—can negatively impact employee satisfaction and morale. They may also prompt workers to look for another employer that offers more predictable scheduling. 

One employee wrote on Reddit: “The store manager keeps changing my schedule all through the week. There will be some nights I stay up late watching a movie since I have a closing shift the next day, but when I check right before bed it’s mysteriously changed to an opening shift…I never get asked or even informed about it! …I’m too anxious about the possible changes to even attempt to make plans.”

For these reasons, try to limit your schedule changes and use them only where necessary. Providing your employees with advance notice of their schedules and sticking to them—even if not required by law—creates a stable work environment, fosters employer-employee trust, and supports employees’ work-life balance.

🧠 Did you know?

Offering your employees flexible scheduling can reduce the need for last-minute schedule changes to cover absences. For example, employees can swap their own shifts or voluntarily claim open shifts when they want extra hours. Connecteam’s intuitive scheduling app offers these features plus more. 

An illustration showing Connecteam’s scheduling from manager view

Other Laws To Consider When Changing Employee Work Schedules

In addition to considering specific scheduling laws, you may need to consider other legal requirements when changing employees’ shifts. Here are some categories of laws that may apply. 


The FLSA requires employers to pay employees 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Many states also have similar overtime laws—or laws that are more generous to employees. 

Failing to pay employees overtime when it’s due can lead to costly fines or lawsuits.

When changing employees’ schedules, tracking their hours is important so you know when they go into overtime. This helps you manage your overtime costs and comply with the relevant overtime laws.

Rest and meal breaks

Many states have laws that require employers to provide meal or rest breaks to employees who work a certain number of hours during a shift. 

For example, Kentucky employers must give employees an unpaid lunch break and at least 10-minute rest breaks for every 4 hours they work. 

Some state laws also require employers to give employees time off between certain shifts. For example, under Illinois’ One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA), employees must have a minimum of 24 consecutive hours of rest every 7 days. 

When making schedule changes that increase an employee’s hours or number of workdays, you may need to factor in mandatory break or rest times to ensure compliance with these laws. 

🧠 Did You Know? 

Connecteam is the ideal tool for managing schedule changes. The app lets you track overtime, schedule required meal and rest breaks, and update employee schedules. You can also set regulatory limitations to ensure schedules comply with relevant laws—all while delivering a positive scheduling experience to your employees. 


Scheduling can be a headache for employees too… Make sure both sides have a solution that suits their needs 🤝 *spoiler – we have everything they’re asking for #employee #resturantlife #resturant #worklife #fyp #foryou #foryoupage

♬ original sound – Connecteam – Connecteam

Reporting time pay

If you make schedule changes that reduce an employee’s hours, you must be aware of relevant reporting time pay laws. 

Some states require employers to compensate employees who attend a scheduled shift but are sent home immediately or early. Fair workweek laws may address this issue. Alternatively, some states have standalone reporting pay laws.  

For example, while California doesn’t have a state-wide fair workweek law, it does require employers to provide reporting time pay

Child labor laws

There are strict laws at the federal and most state levels around the hours minor employees can work. 

For example, in Michigan, 16 and 17-year-olds can work a maximum of 24 hours a week while school is in session and 48 hours when it isn’t. 

If you alter your minor employees’ schedules, ensure that their hours comply with any relevant child labor laws. 

Anti-discrimination laws

Various federal and state laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on characteristics including race, national origin, color, race, religion, sex, and age

Scheduling practices that indicate a pattern of behavior towards a specific group of employees may be discriminatory. For example, if an employer offers extra hours only to male employees or regularly changes the shifts of workers with migrant backgrounds but not of US-born workers, the alterations may amount to discrimination. 

Anti-discrimination laws also require employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers or those with disabilities. Changes to modified schedules may breach these laws. 

The Bottom Line on Schedule Change Laws

Employers generally have broad discretion to change employee schedules—even at the last minute. However, local laws, collective bargaining agreements, or employment contracts may limit how and when you can make these changes. 

It’s important to seek legal advice and understand your obligations to ensure compliance. Even if you’re legally allowed to change schedules freely, minimizing schedule changes can help maintain employee morale and satisfaction. 

A tool like Connecteam can help you create schedules in minutes, manage schedule changes, and notify employees in real-time.

Try Connecteam free today to see how it can help you with compliant scheduling.


The information on this website about scheduling laws is intended to be a summary for informational purposes only. However, laws and regulations regularly change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up to date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness,  accuracy, or applicability to your specific situation. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek legal advice from their legal department or a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.

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