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Government Wants to Fix Your Waiter's 'Unpredictable' Work Schedule

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Part-time workers are sick of the unpredictability of their work schedules and the government wants to fix that. That is the premise behind the oh-so-cleverly titled "Schedules that Work Act," legislation introduced this week that says it will "require employers to provide more predictable and stable schedules for employees" who work part time or hourly.

How will our elected officials do this? By forcing bosses and employees to talk it out:

[Employers] shall engage in a timely, good faith interactive process with the employee that includes a discussion of potential schedule changes that would meet the employers needs.

Groundbreaking.

According to The New York Times, laws like this are a part of a "growing national movement" to curb practices like "requiring employees to work unpredictable hours that wreak havoc with everyday routines like college and child care." Vermont and San Francisco have already "adopted laws giving workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules to take care of children or aging parents."

But employers don't have to grant schedule requests if they have a "bona fide business reason" for not doing so. The only thing proposals like these do is show the ignorance of the lawmakers pushing for their passage. 

The industries that the Schedues That Work Act is aimed at—hospitality, retail, food service—use flexible schedules because to stay profitable they must adjust their labor supply to meet a demand that fluctuates widely from day to day. For example, the amount of customers that visit a restaurant  can change rapidly depending on hard-to-predict factors such as whether it rained that day or whether regular patrons decided to try out a new restaurant around the block.

It's true that a lot of part-time workers are unhappy with their employment conditions. The number of part-time workers who would prefer to work full time has nearly doubled since 2007, to 7.5 million, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Almost half of part-time, hourly workers receive a week or less of advance notice about their schedule. 

Unpredictable scheduling practices can be frustrating for workers, but the government can't fix that. Workers, however, can. The New York Times article gives a great examples of this:

Sharlene Santos says her part-time schedule at a Zara clothing store in Manhattan—ranging from 16 to 24 hours a week—is not enough. "Making $220 a week, that's not enough to live on—it's not realistic," she said.

After Ms. Santos and four other Zara workers recently wrote to the company, protesting that they were given too few hours and received just two days' notice for their schedule, the company promised to start giving them two weeks' advance notice.

Not all companies will be so receptive, and that's okay because they will lose out on retaining good employees. Eventually, those workers frustrated with inefficient management will leave for positions that better suit their scheduling needs, or they will gain more skills and be able to move to a position of higher skill, better pay and, yes, a schedule that fits their needs. 

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  1. Is there no aspect of life the government can’t fix? Its abilities are truly wondrous.

    1. Did you know I was not allowed to talk to management about scheduling when I worked in retail through high school? It was illegal. Thankfully, it appears that Vermont has righted this horrible wrong since I left the state.

      1. No one wants to hear about your time working at the sex toys shop, Auric.

        1. But that’s how I met your mom!

          1. Come on, she’s bought sex toys from every sex shop in New England. You think you’re special? You’re just one of the…uh…thousands? Tens of thousands? Of her conquests.

            Poor, naive Auric.

  2. At last, justice for all those wait staff that for years have been forced at gunpoint to work at restaurants.

  3. I think I need the government to require my wife to be more predictable about when she has gum in her purse. Sometimes she has it, sometimes she doesn’t. It’s not fair when I want gum and she doesn’t have it. She should be forced to either have gum at all times, or tell me 3 days in advance of when she won’t have it.

  4. Listen Brittany, the article’s great and all, but you’re going to have to step up your alt-text game if you want to build a loyal following here.

    Getting a leather jacket or wading into the comments helps too.

    1. Speak for yourself. I appreciate the wabi sabi Zen-like simplicity of Ms. Morrisey’s alt-text.

    2. She’ll do well to not wade into the comments. She’s too young and innocent.

  5. It’s like Obama and the Democrats want to burn the candle at both ends.

    First, ObamaCare makes your boss cut your hours to less than 30 hours per week, so he or she doesn’t have to buy you health insurance…

    http://thehill.com/blogs/floor…..r-workweek

    …now, if you have to pick up a second job to make ends meet, they want to make employers even more reluctant to give you whatever flex hours they have available?

    1. You’re going to pick up a second job when both your jobs require you to have free significantly more hours than you’ll work how, exactly?

  6. Is that Walter White?

  7. Not all companies will be so receptive, and that’s okay because they will lose out on retaining good employees. Eventually, those workers frustrated with inefficient management will leave for positions that better suit their scheduling needs, or they will gain more skills and be able to move to a position of higher skill, better pay and, yes, a schedule that fits their needs.

    But we need action NOW! Which can only come from government bureaucracy slowing everything down to a snail’s pace.

  8. It was my experience, back in the day, that the better the worker, the better the schedule. Employees who regularly showed up on time, worked their entire shift and did their ‘side work’ without complaint or prompting got more hours and the more coveted shifts. Restuarants in particular have a lot of workers who really don’t want to be there so while a worker might not start out with a cushy schedule one usually would come available in pretty short order.

    1. Rewarding good work ethic? That’s crazy talk, woman!

    2. Knowing a couple of successful restauranteurs, the other side of this it rewarding those who will break into their schedule to cover when someone’s out or bizz requires it.
      (oh, and they talk about it even if the law doesn’t require it!)

      1. This. If an employer wants good labor, they’ll do out of their way to attract good employees. One of my favorite breweries in town has a staff meeting in the kitchen before they get hit with the dinner crowd – it might be more like a huddle.

        The service is awesome. I get free beer samples. When they make a mistake on a order, they’ll give extra food away for free to the people waiting on the bar. They only take cash. And I almost always leave a larger than normal tip.

        Popeye’s chicken on the other hand…

        1. “One of my favorite breweries in town has a staff meeting in the kitchen before they get hit with the dinner crowd – it might be more like a huddle.”

          A place we frequent has every staffer taste the specials (and some of the menu items).
          And there have been times a menu item is 86’d in the meeting if the staff isn’t enthused.

        2. There’s a Popeye’s in Arvada, CO that’s really good, fast, fresh and really good service. Then there’s one down in Denver that is… not so much.

          1. I don’t get Popeye’s slogan “Louisiana fast”; when I think ‘fast’, I think “New York” as in “a New York minute”. When I think “Louisiana”, the term “languid” comes to mind. And Po’boys. Delicious shrimp or oyster po’boys.

            1. It doesn’t make sense the other way, either. Why would a restaurant suggest a fast?

  9. a timely, good faith interactive process

    That’s supposed to be a legal requirement? One that, if you fail to meet it, you are subject to penalties?

    Any competent court would throw it out as “void for vagueness”. How the fuck is anyone supposed to know what counts as a “timely” and “interactive” process that will avoid penalties?

  10. Dude that makes no sense at all man.

    http://www.AnonToolz.tk

    1. Jeeze, RJM, I didn’t know you’d been reading lan lan.

  11. Well, there’s goes the troll…

    1. I’m assuming it actually was ‘Murican–he must just have an IP address that’s kill-on-sight, because I don’t know of anybody else who gets that treatment. He was dancing around the race issue but hadn’t really shown his hand yet. Oh, well.

      It’s still hilarious watching him get slapped down every time he rears his head. Why the hell does he keep coming back?

      1. I think Mary’s on the kill-on-sight list as well, but I haven’t seen her show up for a while…she seems to have given up trying to beat registration and has settled for trolling commenter’s blogs and posting wacky youtube videos.

      2. Why the hell does he keep coming back?

        Because he/she is mentally ill?

  12. “Making $220 a week, that’s not enough to live on?it’s not realistic,”

    If you don’t feel valued it’s because you’re not. It’s amazing that some people go their entire lives without realizing that they don’t have a valuable skill-set. They confuse work with productivity.

  13. From the “Schedules that Work” link:

    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.

    The legislation neuters itself by effectively turning its two week advanced notice into a one day notice which essentially changes nothing. The rest of the bill looks almost as ineffective. It’s fluff legislation that neither substantially helps employees nor substantially burdens employers because it’s either too vague to enforce and is filled with loopholes. It piles on more rules, regulations and compliance paperwork that cramp business opportunity so a politician can say they’re “strengthening America’s middle class” while, at best, marginally weakening it.

    1. “It’s fluff legislation that neither substantially helps employees nor substantially burdens employers because it’s either too vague to enforce and is filled with loopholes.”

      The SF version of this crap is pretty much the same, but the danger is that it gives an employee an opportunity to sue, making firing more difficult.

      1. Make me wonder who’s pushing the legislation. Is it simply a politician pandering for votes; a trial lawyers association; unions?

  14. But employers don’t have to grant schedule requests if they have a “bona fide business reason” for not doing so.

    As opposed to just dicking with the help, as Congress seems to think motivates them. Cong. Mario Biaggi told me, “Employers are sharks.” Apparently they think employers have everyone by the balls and aren’t in it so much to make money as to make trouble.

  15. Can’t afford to live in New York City. Imagine that. So sue Zara. Sounds like a corporationy place to work.

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