Attention, all restaurateurs who figure they can counter a $15 minimum wage with more aggressive scheduling: Lawmakers and enforcement agents may not let you do it.
The officials have decided the time is right to consider limits on employers’ traditional scheduling prerogatives. They want to end the practice they’ve demonized as on-call or just-in-time employment: adding or dropping hours right up to the time an employee’s shift is about to start. Ditto for sending them home early if the expected business volume doesn’t materialize.
It’s a movement that’s remained largely unnoticed, despite strong indications this week that restaurateurs and all other employers may soon be subjected to scheduling limitations. Maybe everyone was distracted by the other head-turning political events of recent days, including a self-imposed ban on clog dancing.
Here’s a sampling of why politics and sausage-making are often equated.
Calif. considers work schedule guarantees
A bill requiring restaurants and other employers to set hourlies’ work schedules for three weeks at a time, and at least a week before the guaranteed tour of duty is set to begin, showed real chances this week of becoming law in California.
Proponents say the measure is needed to provide employees with predictable hours and income. If their employer needs to cut hours within seven days of a shift’s scheduled start, the business has to pay the affected employee a reduced wage, identified in the bill as “modification pay.” Employees whose shifts are eliminated within 24 hours of the scheduled start time are entitled to half what they would have been paid for their hours.
The measure lists some circumstances where the work can be cancelled without penalty, such as during a power blackout, extreme weather or a development that puts employees and guests at risk. Employees can also swap shifts without subjecting their employer to sanctions.
9 states probe ‘on-call scheduling’
Fifteen businesses with large hourly workforces were summoned by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to justify their policies of asking employees to call before a shift and verify their services will be needed. All were retailers rather than restaurateurs, but it’s not as if the practices under scrutiny are unique to shoe stores or clothing outlets.
The inquiry isn’t limited to Illinois. The attorneys general of seven other states and the District of Columbia have reportedly sent retailers in their areas the same letter that Madigan used. The communication notes that on-call employees face uncertainties about such critical matter as child-care scheduling and how much money will be in their next paycheck.
Other areas consider ‘secure scheduling’
At least one of the jurisdictions probing on-call scheduling, Washington, D.C., is considering advance-scheduling requirements and hours guarantees like the ones at the heart of California’s bill.
It’s hardly alone. Seattle’s City Council has shown an interest in requiring restaurants and other employers to notify staff of a shift change at least two weeks in advance or pay a penalty. On-call workers would be subject to pay whether or not they worked.
Ban on alligator meat and clog dancing
The political arena can be a theater of the bizarre, as the Cucina Deli in Salt Lake City, Utah, demonstrated this week.
Outraged by Mississippi’s legalization of discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals, the establishment decided it would do more than stew. It announced that it would not buy ingredients from the offending state as long as the controversial law is on the books.
“Effective immediately, Cucina restaurant, a well known institution of 20 years in Salt Lake City, will boycott the State of Mississippi,” the restaurant declared on Facebook.
That means no alligator meat, no large-mouth bass and no sweet potatoes. Nevermind that Cucina didn’t exactly specialize in any of those items.
And in case there was any confusion about nonfood imports, Cucina specified that any customer who starts clog dancing will be escorted off the premise. Clogging, as everyone knows, is the official dance of Mississippi.
Closing a gender gap
The Works, a small restaurant chain in New Hampshire, similarly took a political stance this week to protest a social injustice. Mindful that women on average earn only 79 cents for every dollar that a man is paid, the operation charged women only 79 percent of listed menu prices Tuesday, which every clog dancer knows is Equal Pay Day. Men paid full freight.