What Hospitality Trainers Should Know About Restrictive Scheduling Laws

March 09, 2016 | 1909 Views

What Hospitality Trainers Should Know About Restrictive Scheduling Laws

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

What is restrictive scheduling?

Sometimes called predictive or penalty scheduling, it is a national labor movement that wants to require businesses to notify employees well in advance of their work schedules (generally 2 to 4 weeks ahead of time).  If a supervisor needs to alter the schedule by rearranging work shifts, asking employees to stay late during busy times, or trying to send them home during slow times, the employees affected might be entitled to additional compensation if the changes are made after certain deadlines.  In addition, these laws can include provisions such as:

  • Paying employees extra for on-call shifts.
  • Eliminating the practice of “split shifts” and “clopening” (when an employee works a closing shift and then has to open the next morning) by mandating specific rest times between shifts.
  • Offering available work hours to current part-time employees before a company can hire any new employees, with the intention to create an all full-time staff.

Right now the focus of the restrictive scheduling movement has been retail stores and restaurants, but hotels, movie theatres, and amusement centers have been considered for inclusion as well. 

Why are proponents advocating for this type of protection?

Supporters of restrictive scheduling laws feel that current hospitality scheduling practices can be harmful to employees because last-minute changes prevent them from organizing their lives (kids, doctor visits, education opportunities) and this unpredictability creates higher turnover and helps to prevent some workers, especially women and people of color, from escaping poverty. 

Why are others opposed to these laws?

This practice still wouldn’t necessarily prevent employers from scheduling employees during the times they want off, as long as the business needs them, which means that one of the major reasons for enacting the laws wouldn’t be consistently addressed.  Additionally, companies could decide to eliminate employee-initiated shift swapping after a schedule has been posted so that supervisors could never be accused of pressuring employees to make these changes, which would curtail or eliminate flexible scheduling, one of hte most popular benefits that our industry has to offer.  Finally, the sections of the laws that address “offering work hours to current part-time employees before hiring new employees” are often vaguely written about exactly to whom the hours have to be offered (and how these hours need to be communicated) and could lead to many administrative challenges for the businesses covered. 

Where have these laws been enacted?

The only place this type of law has currently been enacted is San Francisco, and it only covers retail stores.  The Retailer Worker Bill of Rights (http://retailworkerrights.com/get-the-facts/) passed back in 2014, and the final rules for this ordinance went into effect on March 1, 2016 (http://sfgov.org/olse/formula-retail-employee-rights-ordinances).  The law only covers “Formula Retail Establishments,” or chain stores, with at least 40 formula retail establishments worldwide and 20 or more employees in San Francisco as well as their janitorial and security contractors.  

With respect to schedule alterations, here are the details:

  • If the schedule changes less than 7 days’ notice but more than 24 hours, employees affected receive 1 hour of pay in addition to the hours they worked.
  • If the change is made less than 24 hours’ notice, employees affected receive 2 hours of pay for each shift of 4 hours and less, and 4 hours of pay for each shift 4 hours or more (and in both cases, this pay is in addition to the hours they worked).

The San Francisco law also requires that if a business is sold, the new owner must retain all employees for 90 days if they worked for the former employer for at least six months prior to the sale. 

Is it really a “movement” if only one city has enacted these protections?

It may only be the law in San Francisco today, but restrictive scheduling laws have been introduced in numerous states across the country recently (http://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/recently_introduced_and_enacted_state_local_9.14.15.pdf), and congressional representatives proposed a bill last year that would cover businesses nationwide (http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/press-release/warren-delauro-murray-scott-murphy-introduce-schedules-work-act-end-unstable).  

The next place you will most likely see legislation passed will be in the city of Seattle, where a scheduling law covering restaurants and retails stores could be formulated by either the mayor’s office or the city council this spring. 

How could these laws affect me as a hospitality trainer?

Like recent increases in minimum wage and mandatory sick pay requirements, these scheduling laws will cost hospitality companies more money and squeeze profit margins even tighter (especially in seasonal areas with fluctuating guest counts), which would of course affect everyone employed by those businesses.  More directly, trainers who teach employee classes will have to budget for possible increased expenses if class times could change after scheduling deadlines, or if the classes run long or short of their originally scheduled time.  Additionally, employees might be less willing to take a class if the post-shift rest times mandated by the laws prevent them from working a higher-paying shift later that day. 

If my legislators are considering this type of law, what should I do?

If you dislike the concept of restrictive scheduling or think it might not produce the intended results, the worst thing you can do is to bury your head in the sand and hope it will go away.  All that will happen if you refuse to get involved is that you will miss out on the opportunity to influence the outcome in your area.

So get to know your city councilors and state legislators, invite them to your hotels or restaurants so they can see how your scheduling system really works, and have them meet the employees whose lives these laws will be affecting and learn about their concerns with the movement.  Forging strong relationships with the people who will be writing these rules is the most effective method for ensuring an outcome that will work for your business and your staff.


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