Oregon sets model for restaurant scheduling restrictions

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Oregon has become the first state in the nation to limit restaurateurs and other employers from making late changes in labor schedules. 

The law, signed into effect yesterday by Gov. Kate Brown, is widely seen as a model that other states will adopt to provide more predictable schedules and incomes for hourly workers. It is aimed at the restaurant, hotel and retail industries, but provides specific concessions for businesses in those fields. For instance, franchises and other restaurant businesses with fewer than 500 employees are exempted.

The Fair Work Week Act will levy a penalty on employers who cancel a worker’s scheduled hours close to their shift of half pay for the time they were set to work. Adding time without advance notice to a staff member’s shift carries a penalty of another hour of pay. However, the law provides a 30-minute grace period, so a server can close out a table and collect his or her tip without penalizing the restaurant.

Starting next July, restaurants and other businesses will be required to schedule shifts at least seven days in advance. On July 1, 2020, the leadtime expands to 14 days. The concession is intended to provide software companies with sufficient time to develop a system for helping restaurants to comply with the new scheduling rules.

Employers will also be obliged by the law to provide new hires with “good faith estimates” of how many hours they can expect to work. Employees will also be granted the right of indicating what shifts they’d prefer, though businesses are not required to honor those requests.

“Clopenings,” or closing and opening shifts scheduled back to back, will be outlawed. Staffers must be offered at least a 10-hour break between shifts. If they opt to resume work before that time elapses, they are entitled to time-and-a-half pay.

Unlike a similar predictive scheduling law in New York City, the Oregon measure does not require employers to offer more hours to existing employees before it hires more people.

It also differs from prior laws by creating a voluntary standby list. Employees can indicate they would like to be called if a shift or extra hours should suddenly become available.

A predictive scheduling law has been in effect in San Francisco since 2014, but restaurateurs and restaurant crewmembers there are still grappling with unintended consequences, like hours being cut rather than scheduled on speculation. Research has shown that employers and employees there are unhappy about the law because of the limits it puts on scheduling flexibility and the ability of workers to pick up additional shifts, according to the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.

The Oregon law applies to any local business that employees more than 500 people worldwide. The number is not computed on a chain basis; employees of a franchised chain restaurant do not count toward the tally for franchisors or other franchisees.

The measure is intended to provide a more predictable work life for hourly employees. Proponents say the advance scheduling component will enable workers to line up transportation or child care, while providing a more fixed assessment of their income for any given month. 

“This bill will help employees obtain advance notice of their work schedules so they can manage other key life responsibilities—childcare, children’s school events, medical appointments, their own class schedules, and second jobs,” Rep. Ann Lininger said in a statement issued before the governor had signed the measure. Linger, a Democrat, has expressed her hopes that other states will follow Oregon's lead and copy the legislation.

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