Seattle Worker Scheduling Law Panned

Seattle Worker Scheduling Law Panned
Jan Teague, President and CEO of the Washington Retail Association, testifies to a Seattle City Council committee last week. She was one numerous employer stakeholders voicing opposition to the city's draft "secure scheduling" ordinance. Photo: Mike Richards.

A 48-page draft “secure scheduling” ordinance would impose monetary penalties and micromanagement by mandate on larger Seattle food and retail businesses. Employers say it will hurt them, and the hourly-pay workers it is intended to protect. 

The draft bill under consideration by the Seattle City Council would require two-week advance written notice of scheduled hours; plus a “predictability pay” penalty for hours rescinded due to changing conditions. Each instance of adding daily hours or changing the start or end of a shift, would mean a one-hour pay penalty for the employer, and work required less than 10 hours after the end of shift would have to be paid at time-and-a-half.

Additional hours would have to be offered to current employees before new or temporary workers, with three-day advance written notice required in English and any other “primary languages” of workers.

A related seven-point, three-year record keeping requirement for employers would be enforced by the city.

Oh, and the ordinance would exempt employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement with similar provisions.

The provisions would apply to stores or restaurants with 500 or more employees worldwide. For full service restaurants, there is an additional requirement of 40 or more locations across the globe. Covered employees must work within Seattle city boundaries at least half of the time.

City ‘Micromanaging’ Employer-Employee Relations

“I think [Seattle City Council] is micromanaging what should be negotiations between employers and employees. By including that union carve-out first of all it really shows…it’s not about protecting workers,” Erin Shannon, director of the Center for Small Business at Washington Policy Center, told Lens.

“Sadly, this ordinance will reduce the number of hours available for many retail and restaurant employees and they cannot afford to see their incomes go down,”  wrote Jan Teague, President and CEO of the Washington Retail Association (WRA), in a press release.

Teague told Lens that because of the penalties, employers will tend not to call in substitutes or additional workers when needed and will be more hesitant to assign workers to regular shifts. This will “hurt the whole notion of providing customer service,” she said.

Target’s letter warned the city council that “due to the penalty pay provisions, employers will be less able to add hours for employees who want them or accommodate last minute employee requests to make changes to their schedule.”  

Restaurants: Let Employers, Employees Work Things Out

“We believe employers should be able to actually talk with employees about schedule changes and additional hours without incurring predictability pay,” Jillian Henze, local communications manager for the Washington Restaurant Association and Washington Lodging Association, told Lens.

Jeremy Schmidt, a Starbucks manager in San Francisco, attended the Seattle City Council’s public hearing on the draft ordinance last week to warn the Seattle Council how the new scheduling laws have negatively affected his own business.

“Now during interviews, I must assess if [employees] can forecast their lives a minimum of two weeks in advance,” Schmidt told the Civil Rights, Utilities, Economic Development and Arts Committee.

Grocers Also Wary

Jan Gee, President and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association, told the committee she was concerned that family-owned grocers will fall under this ordinance only “because they own several other stores far from Seattle.”

 Gee said penalizing employers for schedule changes when it is far beyond their control, concerns WFIA a “great deal.”

Gee added that WFIA would “rather have employers create jobs than paying people to do paperwork.”

Heidi Mann owns a Subway franchise on the edge of Seattle city limits. Mann told the committee the predictability pay provision seemed like a “catch 22” when it comes to shift coverage.

If unexpected conditions dictate staffing changes or substitutions, “we (have to) find another employee to work, resulting in us paying penalty pay…(and) because I make my schedules two to three weeks out, we then have to change all of those week’s schedules, resulting in penalty pay again,” said Mann.

Collin Pointon, sales specialist at the South Lake Union REI store, asked the committee to pass the ordinance to “make life livable for tens of thousands of people in our city.”

City Study Finds Majority Of Workers Satisfied

In May, Seattle commissioned a study to gauge the current state of scheduling within Seattle food and retail businesses. It found 63 percent of surveyed employees were satisfied with the number of hours they work, and over 80 percent of employees responded that they could specify and limit the hours they work.

“Given…that the Vigdor study identified additional hours as the highest priority for employees, many provisions of this potential legislation will have the exact opposite effect: fewer hours and less flexibility,” wrote a coalition of Washington employer organizations in a letter to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.

The committee has scheduled a special meeting for September 7 to hear possible amendments, and a vote on the ordinance is possible September 13, a Seattle City Council source told Lens.

As Lens previously reported, this new ordinance would be the next in a line of approved worker mandates including paid sick leave, minimum wage, wage theft prevention and “fair chance” employment for ex-convicts. If passed, it too would be enforced by the city’s Office of Labor Standards.

Discouraging Outcomes In San Francisco

A secure scheduling law has already been implemented in San Francisco. Businesses there are reporting hiring fewer part-time workers, scheduling fewer employees per shift, and offering less schedule flexibility since implementation, as a result.

In the Washington D.C. City Council, a similar measure is stalled until the fall session. Minneapolis approved a paid sick leave law in May but dropped the bill’s fair scheduling provision due to opposition from business.



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