Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others on July 15 introduced the “Schedules that Work Act,” legislation that would establish federal standards for employer scheduling practices.

According to the lawmakers, “unstable, unpredictable and rigid scheduling practices,” especially in retail, food service and cleaning, “make it difficult for workers to maintain stable child care, care for other family members or pursue career development or other education.”  

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Scheduling Standards: Next Big Compliance Issue?

Thu Jul 23, 2015

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others on July 15 introduced the “Schedules that Work Act,” legislation that would establish federal standards for employer scheduling practices.

According to the lawmakers, “unstable, unpredictable and rigid scheduling practices,” especially in retail, food service and cleaning, “make it difficult for workers to maintain stable child care, care for other family members or pursue career development or other education.”

The National Partnership for Women and Families said in support, “The unfair and unpredictable scheduling practices of too many employers are causing millions of workers to struggle to meet their responsibilities at home and on the job.”

Advocates of what’s called “comprehensive scheduling reform” are apparently responding to more widespread use of just-in-time and related computerized scheduling that enables employers to better synchronize work hours and shifts with customer traffic.

Specifically, the new legislation, H.R. 3071, would require employers with 15 or more employees to provide “schedule predictability and stability” by mandating “reporting pay,” “call-in pay,” and “split-shift pay,” and by providing 14-day advance notice of schedule changes.

Of special concern to employers no doubt is a provision that would not only require employers to “consider and respond” to schedule requests but to “grant such requests” when made because of a health condition, child or elder care, a second job or continued education “unless a legitimate business reason precludes it.” Such requests could relate to a worker’s hours, location or work schedule.

All this would be backed up by tough governmental remedies and enforcement, including Department of Labor FLSA investigative and subpoena powers and the right of employees to bring civil actions for damages against employers in federal or state courts.

Outlook for Scheduling Reform—

To be sure, the DeLauro-Warren legislation mirrors what’s happening at the state level. California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and others are considering or have adopted legislation limiting employer scheduling flexibility.

And several high-profile employers, sometimes under public pressure, have gotten ahead of the legislative curve by changing scheduling practices. Starbucks, for example, announced last year that it would revise scheduling procedures—eliminating the practice of “clopening,” i.e., scheduling employees to close and open stores back-to-back.

Grocery chain Whole Foods and big box retailer Wal-Mart have also recently changed practices to allow more schedule predictability.

As far as the legislation is concerned, not a single Republican representative or senator has been listed as a cosponsor of either H.R. 3071 or the Senate companion bill, S.1772. With last November’s elections giving Republicans control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, this means that the “Schedules that Work Act” has little chance of becoming law.

Nevertheless, the bill’s 75 congressional sponsors are sending a powerful signal to employers: scheduling practices should reflect a balance between the needs of employers and the needs of employees.

As employers invest considerable time and effort to comply with the Affordable Care Act, including preparing for the so-called “Cadillac Tax,” and brace themselves for next year’s revised overtime rules, pressure may be building as well for an entirely new compliance issue—comprehensive scheduling reform.