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Friday, 30 June 2017 05:44

Oregon Legislature to Prohibit Employers Changing Work Schedules on a Moment's Notice

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bigboxstoresEmployees have a right to a predictable schedule and pay. (Photo: Mike Mozart)

The Oregonian recently reported that Oregon could become "the first state in the nation to mandate work schedule predictability for certain food service, retail and hospitality workers":

The bill would help on-call employees, including many earning low wages, who can have shifts added or taken away at the last minute....

The Fair Work Week Act would set work scheduling standards for the largest retail, hospitality and food service employers -- those with at least 500 employees worldwide. Starting in July 2018, those companies would have to give their Oregon employees written estimates of their work schedules seven days before the start of the work week. The notice requirement would increase to 14 days in July 2020.

The law passed the Oregon House this week after passing the state Senate. It is expected to be signed shortly by Democratic Governor Kate Brown. Some cities have already passed such laws -- including New York and Seattle -- but Oregon would become the first state to require fair scheduling.

A key state Senator supporting the bill, Democrat Kathleen Taylor, emphasized the need of many Oregon constituents for workplace hours that are set in advance and not subject to being "on call." Taylor told her colleagues:

We heard from employees that due to unpredictable schedules, they had an extremely difficult time making plans to take care of basic needs, for example making doctor's appointments, planning child care, etcetera. We also heard from those that testified that it is difficult to improve your life without a more predictable schedule, for example taking a class or securing an additional job.

Working mom Kayleigh Game made an appeal for passage of the bill in a June 23 op-ed in The Oregonian:

This past Mother's Day, I didn't want a fancy brunch. I didn't want flowers or a big box of chocolates. I want something that you won't find on any Hallmark card: a job with a predictable schedule.

For the past few years, unpredictable hours have been the single biggest obstacle to a real work-life balance for me and for thousands of other working moms across Oregon....

The bill certainly will make a world of difference for moms like me. Again and again for the past few years, I have cycled through jobs that promised stability, only to find myself thrown into chaos.

Shortly after giving birth to my daughter, I accepted a part-time job at a retail coffee chain. It didn't take long for my hours to start fluctuating from week to week -- a problem that has long plagued hourly workers across the country.

Changing work schedules on short notice is a hallmark of -- but not limited to -- big box stores. Chains, in particular, try to increase profit margins by regularly fluctuating staffing to match shifting patterns of consumer spending. This gives the stores a fatter bottom line but wreaks havoc on the lives of affected workers. The scheduling of employee work and personal time becomes dependent on the ever-changing work scheduling required by their employers.

The employer use of requiring short-notice flexible hours also has another negative impact on employees; in many cases, it reduces their pay because of fewer scheduled hours some weeks. Earlier this year, The New York Times ran an article by Patricia Cohen that addressed this issue:

Mirella Casares has what used to be considered the keystone of economic security: a job. But even a reliable paycheck no longer delivers a reliable income.

Like Ms. Casares, who works at a Victoria’s Secret store in Ocala, Fla., more and more employees across a growing range of industries find the number of hours they work is swinging giddily from week to week -- bringing chaos not only to family scheduling, but also to family finances.

And a new wave of research shows that the main culprit is not the so-called gig economy, but shifting pay within the same job.

When the number of hours a person works is reduced from day to day or week to week to meet consumer demand forecasts, it becomes challenging to budget expenses because take-home pay is not predictable.

In an email to the media, the Oregon Working Families Party released a statement by spokesperson Hannah Taube about the victory in the Oregon state capitol:

Hard working people deserve a schedule they can count on. This legislation, the first of its kind in the nation, would help working families across the state have more predictable schedules; allowing them to plan for things like child care, higher education, doctor’s appointments, and management of their personal finances.

Employees should have a right to know their work schedules and pay without last-minute changes. The state of Oregon has heard and responded to their needs.