Oregon Wants to Regulate Flexible Work Schedules Out of Existence

"Fair Work Week" would penalize employers and likely cost jobs, hours, and employee flexibility.


Art Lab punch clock
Bernard Polet/Flickr

State Sen. Michael Dembrow wants Oregon to be the first state in the union to micromanage workers' schedules.

Dembrow's 'fair work week' bill, requiring employers to provide worker schedules one week in advance (and two weeks by 2020) and pay workers extra if shifts are added, removed, or changed, is quickly working its way through the legislature.

Nearly identical laws have been passed locally in San Francisco and Seattle.

Dembrow (D-Portland) says his bill will give workers "stability to know when to schedule childcare, second jobs, college classes and other aspects of everyday life."

Creating 'stability' through regulation, however, comes at a cost. Employers' workplace needs change suddenly, sometimes shift to shift, for all sorts of reasons. Dembrow would like to penalize them for responding to those changes.

The penalty might be triggered by the request of an employee, according to a University of Washington (UW) study commissioned to measure the impact of Seattle's "secure scheduling" ordinance. The study found 80 percent of managers had within the previous two weeks of being surveyed changed schedules at the request of employees.

The reasons were as simple as illness (28 percent), recreation time (18.6 percent), or caring for a sick child (18 percent).

"Flexibility is a benefit all our employees enjoy," one West Seattle manager told survey takers. "Employees' needs dictate our schedule." Penalties for changing schedules on short notice, the manager said, would "take control of schedules away from the workers."

In San Francisco, the only city to implement scheduling regulations so far, 35 percent of managers in a study said they had responded to their city's scheduling law by reducing flexibility in hours.

The study found one-fifth of businesses reported hiring fewer part-time workers after the scheduling law went into effect. A similar number said they were making do with fewer workers per shift, and 17 percent said they had cut back employment of full and part-time staff.

Seattle workers—30 percent of whom said in the UW study that they'd want more work at their current jobs—will likely see similar hours reductions when that city's "secure scheduling" ordinance is implemented July 1.

Jacob Vigdor, author of the UW study, said in an email to Reason, "Quite a few employees reported that their employer scaled back hours in order to avoid the ACA employer health care obligation."

That means the many Oregon workers who wrote and testified in favor of Fair Work Week legislation in the hopes of getting more hours, would likely see the opposite should the bill pass.

Oregon employers, too would be less likely to grant days off for private or family matters if it meant having to call in a more expensive employee. They would also be more likely to simply hire fewer workers, and give their current ones fewer hours.

The attempt to give workers more hours through regulation also ignores the fact that many workers are not getting enough hours because of regulation. State level ordinances add to the problem. In the past year Oregon has passed a sizable minimum wage increase and mandated paid sick leave.

"To add more regulations requiring our payroll costs to go up will force us to reduce our staff to compensate," said Cindy Ertell, of Oregon Coffee Roasters, in written testimony to the Oregon Senate. "We don't want to have to do that."

Despite these problems, Oregon's Fair Work Week has received healthy bi-partisan support both in the Senate, which passed it last week, and in the House where its moved out of committee with near unanimous approval.

Should it pass as expected, some Oregonians might get a fairer worker week. Others might have no work week at all.

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  1. Let’s just get to the UBI so that no one has to be inconvenienced by work ever again

    1. Indeed, all we need are a few million slaves imported workers and we’re good to go!

      1. Same people that support sanctuary city laws support workplace flexibilty.

        Consistent future for the formerly free world. Ruling elites hire third world servants without legal rights.

    2. In an earlier article, I was going to make a snarky comment about the proper response to the inevitable job losses from absurd minimum wages would be to mandate employers can’t cut hours. They beat me to the punch.

      These sheep are beyond snark, beyond mocking. I give up.

      When do I get to cash my UBI check?

      1. Unions represented a far greater imposition on employers than piddly laws like this and a minimum wage hike of a couple dollars, and all that happened during their heyday was history’s most widely prosperous society.

        1. If only we could go back 50-75 years…

        2. And of course every other material factor other than those remain unchanged.

          1. There’s no philosophical reason libertarianism has to be hostile to unions. None whatsoever. It’s just that it’s an idea in service of an interest group, that group being the Top Men at large corporations.

            1. it’s the coercion, stupid

            2. And there’s no philosophical reason a “progressive” should dream of being a factory drone in a bygone era.

              You know: forward-thinking progress and all.

              Maybe jobs are scarce in Oklahoma?

            3. Have you ever met a “Top Person” at a large company? I’ve met plenty at large/medium/small organizations, and they are way more delightful than any Union rep I’ve had to deal with. It’s not that unions have to be bad, it’s just that history seems to show they really like to be bad (at basically everything).

              Maybe you should go out and stop reading catch phrases from the internets dude.

              1. Most CEOs I’ve met seem genuinely insane, but I mostly interact with family companies.

                1. Well, you do seem to hang out around a lot of progressive-minded people. So I’d be surprised if they were able to run a company with any grounded methods.

                  1. The CEOs of the most innovative large corporations in the world are all liberals.

                    1. “The CEOs of the most innovative large corporations in the world are all liberals.”

                      Clearly, progressive politics must be on the side of the common man, and against our corporate overlords.

                    2. Meh, hardly an important statement and I’d be curious if that’s true even. Are they all socially liberal? Maybe a great deal are. But if they’re all economically anti-market/pro-socialism, I’d be super surprised. Apples current CEO being gay (hooray representation i guess for me?) is hardly a strong support of that claim.

            4. Pass a Federal-level Right to Work law and junk the NLRB. Then you can talk about libertarian hostility to unions. In the meantime, unions are nothing more than extortion rackets backed up by the Federal government.

              But you knew that, right? Just trolling us again, or just being your normal racist authoritarian bootlicking self?

              1. I’m defending collective bargaining, a freedom you apparently think the government should use its authoritarian boots to stomp out of existence.

                1. Not taking is giving. Not giving is taking. Don’t you have anything new, Tony?

                2. No you’re not. You’re defending coercive collective bargaining, backed up by government jackboots.

                  1. While poor old corporations get no goodies from government. I mean except their very existence and limited liability and a thousand other things.

                    1. Wow Tony. You must be in great shape from moving all those goalposts…

                    2. There shouldn’t be any need to explain the power dynamics of corporations and unions. One is no more or less government-backed than the other. You simply have chosen the position that government should back one to the total annihilation of the other, because libertarians are all ignorant stooges who use freedom as a bumper sticker but don’t have much use for it beyond that.

                    3. Your argument is that as a libertarian I shouldn’t be hostile to mandatory union membership, public-sector unions blowing up state budgets, vastly inflated union/government negotiated salaries, mandatory worker support for union contributions to exclusively Democratic candidates because “corporations get breaks from the government too”? WTF, Tony, are you really that stupid?

                      You claim you’re just trolling, but it’s really hard to believe you intentionally make these kinds of arguments just to get attention.

                    4. And like always, Tony runs away as soon as his argument gets laid out in all its glory.

                      You’re an intellectual coward.

                    5. Search “piercing the corporate veil”, you disingenuous hack.

                3. I thought the government using it’s boots on people was a turn on for you?

                  1. Clarice,

                    If you want to know more about my turn ons, send and email to Crusty@reason.com.

                    Include pics. pls. Also phone # and address.

            5. Yeah it’s the “you must be in a union to work” is what we are against. Also public sector unions. I see no reason why a private sector union shouldn’t exist…

            6. There’s no philosophical reason libertarianism has to be hostile to unions.

              True. They should be treated as a subcontractor which supplies labor, with as much free market right to get the contract as any other service provider.

              This means no *extra* rights for them. No compulsory dues or representation for workers who do not wish to join, no requirement that businesses deal with them.

        3. How much money would you have to have to go back to living in 1950? No picking and choosing things you like and dislike. You have to take EVERYTHING from 1950.

          1. Everything from 1950 includes Tony not actually living.

            1. It also means Tony is looking for blatant racism and sexism. Real champion of progressive politics.

          2. Considering I’m alive based on a medication that’s fairly recent, probably a lot of money.

        4. Tony hadn’t been conceived yet and all that happened while Tony did not exist was history’s most widely prosperous society.

        5. I’m sure being the last remaining major industrial force that wasn’t bombed to shit had nothing to do with it.

  2. Christ, what an asshole.

    1. Not an asshole, just mind numbingly stupid…….on second thought..

    2. I love New Yorker cartoons.

  3. How many times do we need completely unsurprising results from labor regulations before people stop regulating labor so much?

    1. What comes after infinity?

      1. “Beyond”?

    2. Until people can no longer achieve their ends by them.

      Free market people are under the illusion that the detrimental effects of Leftist labor policies are something they don’t understand, instead of the *desired effect*.

      If you accept that predictable, and predicted outcomes are *intended*, the Left becomes much less mysterious.

      For example, minimum wage laws effectively make bottom skill workers permanently unemployable, and therefore permanently dependent on government.

      Hint – does anyone have an interest in that outcome?

  4. Should it pass as expected, some Oregonians might get a fairer worker week. Others might have no work week at all.

    But it says “fair” right in the heading!

  5. Will the workers have to compensate the employer if the worker misses a scheduled shift?

  6. The idiots that staff the government should be enough to make one an anarchist.

  7. Of course, the workers that most need “stability to know when to schedule childcare, second jobs, college classes and other aspects of everyday life,” are likely to be hurt the most when their employers refuse to accommodate last minute changes due to unexpected events, such as a sick kid.

    1. I know, right? If I’m a compassionate employer and I’m willing to give my employees a break if they call in at the last minute with a child care or illness emergency, I’m going to be less likely to do so if the government is going to penalize me for my compassion.

      Of course then the ‘solution’ will be to probably make it impossible to fire employees, or something, so that employers have to provide a ‘secure schedule’, employees are free to ignore it, and employers are nonetheless forced to pay them anyway.

      1. We can be like Europe in no time!

        1. France is awesome with their 11% unemployment rate because they don’t allow oligopolies on TiO2. We’re just market failure.

  8. what about when someone calls in sick or just misses work? do they get the gas chamber? or docked for what they cost to replace under this bill?

  9. why do greedy capitalists keep responding incorrectly to these new regulations?

  10. Why doesn’t the author of the bill scale it up to a few years ahead, so workers can plan their life. Like, a Five-Year Plan? That would be great.

  11. Oregon’s unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. Lower than US average, and essentially full employment. Plus that means wages should be high because it’s a worker’s market.

    Why are lawmakers even messing around with labor issues, then?

    1. How else are they supposed to justify their salaries?

      1. Plus Democrats need to do something to justify getting that sweet, sweet union money and manpower in the fall.

  12. The solution to this for the employer will be everyone will be temp workers who will only work for a few days. Oregon may outlaw that as well

    1. These people are a testimony for how badly our education system is failing our populous. They advocated for a bill to get better hours without doing any research, and the end result is they will lose hours. They are giving up personal freedoms for the allusion of the government regulating them some bliss.

      1. *populace *illusion

  13. “Should it pass as expected, some Oregonians might get a fairer worker week. Others might have no work week at all.”

    So they can just pass another law that prohibits firing people or scaling back employment. Geez do I have to do all the thinking for you people?

  14. Nearly identical laws have been passed locally in San Francisco and Seattle.

    Also sanctuary cities.

    Who are you gonna hire – illegals unlikely to want to contact authorities, or legals more likely to exercise those rights?

    The Globalists work hard to bring their two tier societies to life in the formerly free world.

  15. Oregon is a fiscal zombie state. So of course, if you’re a lawmaker in Salem ($22 billion long-term pension deficit), you fix the worker schedule thingy.

  16. Portlandia letting it’s Fascism fly.

  17. I don’t have a problem with this as it is conceptually similar to minimum wage. Speaking of that, I could see there being a higher minimum wage being established for employers who still want the flexibility.

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