Labor & Employment

Legislation aims to protect employees with changing schedules


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University of Chicago professor Susan Lambert sees work scheduling as the next big issue in the push to improve labor standards.

Lambert studied 88 low-skilled jobs at 22 Chicago employers in the retail, hospitality, financial services, and transportation industries, according to the school’s website. She found that employers sought to hold down labor costs with last-minute scheduling and no guarantee of minimum hours.

Lambert told the New York Times that scheduling would become as important as paid family leave. “To reduce unpredictability is important to keep women engaged in the labor force,” she said.

A Democratic congressman from California, George Miller, plans to introduce legislation this summer addressing work schedules, though he gives it little chance of passing in a House controlled by Republicans, the Times says. His bill would require employers to pay workers for an extra hour of work if they are called to work with less than a day’s notice. The bill would also require employers to pay for four hours of work when they send employees home after a few hours, a practice that is intended to save costs when business is slow.

Another provision of his bill would require companies to accommodate employee requests for schedules that will allow them to care for family members or attend school, unless there is a bona fide business reason to deny the request.

“The employer community always says it abhors uncertainty and unpredictability,” Miller told the Times, “but they are creating an employment situation that has huge uncertainty and unpredictability for millions of Americans.”

David French, a senior vice president of the National Retail Federation, sees problems with more regulation. “Where employers and employees now work together to solve scheduling problems,” he told the Times, “you’ll have a very bureaucratic environment where rigid rules would be introduced.”

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