What You Need to Know About Alternative Workweeks

Alternative workweek schedules are any regularly scheduled workweek that requires an employee to work more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period. Here’s everything you need to know about California Labor Code 511: Alternative Workweeks.

Alternative workweek schedules can be created for an identifiable work unit by a secret ballot election enacted by at least ⅔ of the affected employees. Additionally, any organization that can adopt an alternative workweek schedule can only do so if they follow the specific procedures required by the IWC and California Labor Code 511.

How Can an Organization Adopt an Alternative Workweek Schedule?

Any organization must comply with the following requirements made by the Industrial Welfare Committee (IWC) in order to propose, conduct, and implement an alternative workweek schedule. Here is what is required of every organization before they can begin the process of obtaining an alternative workweek schedule:

  1. The organization must present a formally written proposal that demonstrates the alternative workweek schedule in detail.
    • This proposal must include the specifications of regular recurring workdays and work hours for the employees affected.
  2. The organization must either propose a single work schedule for all of the employees in the work unit or a menu of work schedule options for the employees in the work unit to choose from.
    • Additionally, if an employee decides to choose an option from the variety of alternative workweek schedules, the employee has the right to change from one school to another provided they have the consent of the organization.
  3. The alternative workweek schedule must be adopted in a secret ballot election that is held by at least ⅔ vote of the affected employees in the work unit.
    • This election must be held during work hours, at the worksite, and the company must cover any additional costs that the election may require.
  4. The organization must have held meeting(s) about the alternative workweek schedule with the affected employees a minimum of 14 days prior to the secret ballot election.
    • In these meetings, the effects of the alternative workweek schedules on the employee’s wages, hours, and benefits, must be discussed. A written disclosure that covers this information must be included in the meeting(s).
    • If at least 5% of the affected employees speak a language other than English, then the disclosure must be provided in that language in addition to English.
    • The organization is required to mail the disclosure describing this information to any affected employee who did not attend the meeting.
  5. The results of the election must be reported by the organization to the Department of Labor Standards of Enforcement within 30 days of the final results being tallied.
    • This report must include the final tally of the vote as well as the size and nature of the business.
  6. Any employee who is affected by a change in work hours resulting from the adoption of an alternative workweek schedule by their company may not be required to work those new hours for at least another 30 days.

How to Repeal an Alternative Workweek Schedule

There may be circumstances where an employee wishes to repeal an alternative workweek schedule. Here is everything that is required by the IWC to repeal an alternative workweek schedule:

  • At least ⅓ of the employees must petition to repeal their newly implemented alternative workweek schedule.
  • Another secret ballot election must be held in order to successfully repeal the alternative workweek schedule.
    • This election must follow the same requirements of the initial election that was held to implement the alternative workweek schedule. This includes being held at the worksite during work hours, a minimum of ⅔ vote in order to repeal, and any additional costs must be covered by the organization.
    • Additionally, this election must be held within 30 days of the implementation of the new alternative workweek schedule.
  • The same employees who voted in the election to either adopt or repeal an alternative workweek schedule are not allowed to vote in another adoption or repeal vote for at least another 12 months.
  • If the alternative workweek schedule is successfully revoked, the organization must comply within 60 of the final result and report of the election.

Exceptions to California Labor Code 511 and Alternative Workweeks

An organization can only adopt a new alternative workweek schedule if it follows all of these guidelines required by the IWC. However, they may be specific situations where guidelines to implementing an alternative workweek schedule may differ or not apply. For example, California Labor Code Order 14-2001 and Order 15-2001 declare that alternative workweek arrangements are not applicable for agricultural and household occupations.

For further information, an employee or organization can refer to the Division Labor Standards Enforcement Policies and Interpretations Manual beginning on section 56.1 for more information pertaining to their situation.

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