In response to recent workplace treads and supporting research that suggest uncertain work schedules can have broad negative consequences for working families, leading Democratic members of Congress today introduced legislation to stem abusive scheduling practices directed primarily at hourly workers.
In some of the economy's fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries-including the retail, food service, and janitorial sectors-workers face erratic and irregular work schedules. Ever-changing, on-call schedules hinder the ability of hourly wage earners to earn a decent living and to balance their responsibilities at work and at home.
The Schedules that Work Act (H.R. 5159) seeks to empower hourly employees with greater scheduling flexibility and certainty. Representatives George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the legislation in the House of Representatives earlier today with 27 cosponsors. Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are the sponsors of the Senate's companion legislation.
"This bill is about protecting basic dignity: the dignity of work and the dignity of the individual,"said Rep. Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. "Workers need scheduling predictability so they can arrange for child care, pick up kids from school, or take an elderly parent to the doctor. The Schedules That Work Act ensures that employers and employees have mutual respect for time dedicated to the workplace."
"Despite being employed, too many hardworking people don't have a stable schedule and consistent wages. Instead, schedules change constantly, so workers can't predict their income or plan their lives. This wreaks havoc on working families and jeopardizes their economic security," said Sen. Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. "The Schedules That Work Act would help workers better manage this balance while still respecting the needs of businesses. By giving workers greater input into and certainty in their schedules, workers, families, and businesses can all benefit."
"Low-wage workers in America are too often being jerked around," said Rep. DeLauro, co-chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. "These women-and they are usually women-cannot plan ahead, or make arrangements to see that theirs kids and family are being taken care of. This bill would protect low-wage workers from abuse and help ensure they can look after their families. Congress needs to ensure that people putting in a hard day's work get a fair day's pay and the ability to care for their loved ones."
"A single mom working two jobs should know if her hours are being canceled before she arranges for daycare and drives halfway across town to show up at work," said Sen. Warren. "This is about some basic fairness in work scheduling so that both employees and employers have more certainty and can get the job done."
Reps. Miller and DeLauro were joined today by two hourly workers who urged Congress to move forward on the legislation. The women, who work in the retail and food service sectors, shared their stories on the difficulties of raising children and providing child care when faced with an ever shifting schedule.
The Schedules That Work Act would provide relief to workers facing irregular and unpredictable schedules by:
* Protecting all employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible, predictable or stable schedule.
* Creating a process for employers to consider requests that is responsive to the needs of both employees and employers. Employees who make requests because they have caregiving duties, are dealing with a health condition, are pursuing education or training courses, or need to meet the demands of a second job must be granted the schedule change, unless the employer has a bona fide business reason for denying it.
* Compensating retail, food service, and cleaning workers for at least four hours of work if an employee reports to work when scheduled for at least four hours but is sent home early.
* Providing that retail, food service, and cleaning employees receive work schedules at least two weeks in advance. Though schedules may later be changed, one hour's worth of extra pay is required for schedules changed with less than 24 hours' notice.
* Providing workers an extra hour of pay if scheduled to work split shifts, or non-consecutive shifts within a single day.
The Schedules That Work Act gives employees a voice at work, benefiting both business and families. Businesses can incur significant costs as a result of unpredictable scheduling for their employees, such as high worker turnover and absenteeism. Empowering workers with schedule flexibility and certainty can minimize those effects. Businesses also benefit from the increased company loyalty workers feel from having their voices heard.
When work schedules are more stable and predictable, families experience greater economic security, are better able to plan for caregiving and childcare, face fewer strains on marriage and family, and have more quality time to spend with loved ones.