The District of Columbia Council recently tabled a bill that would have limited employers’ flexibility to schedule their workers. The “Hours and Scheduling Stability Act” would require certain Washington DC employers to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules, with workers would be entitled to additional “predictability pay” if employers changed schedules within fourteen days. Supporters of the legislation say working families need “predictable” or “fair” scheduling. Of particular concern to retailers and restaurant chains, however, were the bill’s extensive recordkeeping requirements as well as its civil and administrative enforcement provisions, including private rights of action by “injured employees.” As federal, state and local governments move more directly to regulate workplace practices on behalf of working families, “predictable scheduling” could emerge as the next big workplace issue.  

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D.C. Council Shelves Scheduling Bill

Thu Oct 6, 2016

The District of Columbia Council recently voted to table a bill that would have limited employers’ flexibility to schedule their workers. The measure also would have required employers to give more work hours to existing employees before hiring additional workers or using temporary services firms.

The “Hours and Scheduling Stability Act” would require certain Washington DC employers to give workers two weeks’ notice of their schedules, specifying that no changes be made less than two weeks in advance. Workers would be entitled to additional “predictability pay” if employers changed schedules within fourteen days. Supporters of the legislation say working families need “predictable” or “fair” scheduling.

Today, many employers use sophisticated software programs to improve scheduling efficiency and worker productivity by synchronizing work hours and shifts with customer demand and traffic.

This legislation appears to target “just-in-time” scheduling and “on-call” practices of national retailers and restaurant chains, defining “covered employers” as those with more than forty locations nationwide. 

According to The Washington Post, Target, Best Buy and other major retailers expressed concern that if Bill 21-512 became law their “costs would be prohibitive.” The Retail Industry Leaders Association, the trade association of the world’s largest retail companies, opposed the bill, saying “Restrictive scheduling would hurt economic development in the city.” And after the vote to set the measure aside the association said “retailers welcome the Council’s decision to withdraw this harmful proposal.”

The Post also reported that Wegmans, the New York-based national grocery chain, had threatened to cancel plans to locate a store in the Capital if the DC Council approved the legislation.

Of particular concern to retailers and restaurant chains were the bill’s extensive recordkeeping requirements as well as its civil and administrative enforcement provisions, including private rights of action by “injured employees.”

Before the Council action some members noted that they had voted this year to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 and would soon consider legislation to require employers to provide paid family and medical leave. Clearly the 9-4 vote to drop the bill reflected concern about mounting employer compliance burdens.

Legislative Outlook

So far only San Francisco and more recently the Seattle City Council have approved restrictive scheduling legislation aimed at national retailers and restaurant chains. Federal legislation, the “Schedules That Work Act,” introduced in 2015, has gone nowhere in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

Of course the November elections could change the picture. Following the Department of Labor’s final overtime rules slated for December 1, momentum has been building for a national law to mandate paid family leave and for a substantial rise in the federal minimum wage.

As federal, state and local governments move more directly to regulate workplace practices on behalf of working families, “predictable scheduling” could emerge as the next big workplace issue. As a matter of employer compliance, therefore, the D.C. Council’s “Hours and Scheduling Stability Act” has been set aside but is still very much alive.