A bill making its way through the California Senate would require certain types of businesses in the state to provide employees with multi-week work schedules at least seven calendar days in advance of the first shift on that schedule. Supporters of the bill, including several workers' rights groups, say the legislation will help curb abusive scheduling practices by restaurants, retailers, and grocery stores.
SB 878 cleared the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee on April 13 after a 4-1 vote, and is before the Senate Appropriations Committee as of this writing.
The bill as currently written would require restaurants, retailers, and grocery stores to provide a work schedule of at least 21 consecutive calendar days to each of their workers, and to provide the schedules at least 7 calendar days before the first shift on that schedule. In other words, a store clerk, restaurant server, or coffee barista would have knowledge of their scheduled work hours over the next 28 days—a big difference in industries known for calling workers in or sending them home on short notice.
Employers who change the published schedules on short notice would have to pay "modification pay" at the employee’s regular rate of pay. This would apply if a change is made fewer than seven days but more than 24 hours before the scheduled shift. The modification pay would increase to an amount equal to or greater than half of the employee’s scheduled hours for the modified shift, where the change is made less than 24 hours before the start of the shift.
If a worker is on-call but not called in, employers must also pay modification pay equal to or greater than half of the employee’s scheduled hours for the on-call shift, at the employee’s regular rate of pay.
However, modification pay is not required where the change is made due to special circumstances , including power or water issues, natural disasters, or even another employee calling in sick on short notice.
Employers are also required to display a poster that will be developed by the labor commissioner or face a $100 fine for every willful violation of this notice requirement.
The California Senate is considering this proposal about a year and a half after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a "Retail Workers 'Bill of Rights." The rules, which went into effect in October 2015, generally require two weeks’ notice of work schedules and also modification pay for changes made within seven days of the scheduled shift or on-call shifts in which there was no work available.
Scheduling legislation has also been proposed in nearly a dozen other states in recent years, according to the National Women's Law Center. And Democrats in Congress have been pushing for a Schedules that Work Act; a proposal that could get some traction if Democrats take back control of the Senate, or perhaps even the House after the 2016 election.
Workers’ rights advocates have been increasingly complaining about unpredictable scheduling.
About 17 percent of the U.S. workforce experiences unstable work shift schedule, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Low income workers are more likely to face such unpredictability, which raises the chances of work/family conflict.
In April, New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman joined attorney general offices from seven other states and the District of Columbia to complain to major retailers about their use of on-call shifts. Said their letter: "Unpredictable work schedules take a toll on employees. Without the security of a definite work schedule, workers who must be 'on call' have difficulty making reliable childcare and elder-care arrangements, encounter obstacles in pursuing an education, and in general experience higher incidences of adverse health effects, overall stress, and strain on family life than workers who enjoy the stability of knowing their schedules reasonably in advance."
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