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New York eyes different sort of scheduling rules

New York’s Department of Labor is looking to overhaul the pay rules for restaurant workers and other employees whose work schedules might be adjusted at the last minute.

The proposals are a twist on the predictable-schedule laws that are cropping up throughout the nation. New York’s suggested rule changes are aimed at protecting call-in employees, or staff members who essentially are on standby to come into work if a shift is particularly busy. Although that setup is more of a convention in retailing, many restaurants also use that model, particularly during holiday seasons or on busy nights.

At the urging of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the DOL has proposed that on-call workers essentially be entitled to four hours’ worth of pay if their schedules should change.

Employees who are called to work a shift less than 14 days ahead of time would be provided with wages for four hours beyond the time they actually worked. Staff members who have a shift cancelled less than 72 hours ahead of time would be entitled to four hours of compensatory pay, provided they were scheduled to work for at least four hours. Otherwise, the penalty is adjusted accordingly.

Staffers who are alerted they’re on standby automatically collect four hours of pay for holding that status, regardless of whether they’re called to work or not. Any employee who is required to telephone and see whether they’re needed for a shift will be paid that amount for making the call.

A shift added with the consent of the employee still entitles that worker to extra pay equaling wages for two hours.

The pay mandated as penalties or additions to regular pay do not change the usual calculations for determining who is entitled to overtime rates, the DOL said in releasing the plan. Nor do they figure into determining paid-leave time.

Before issuing the planned rule change, DOL conducted public meetings in different locations within the state to gauge workers’ sentiments, according to Cuomo.

"The regulations advanced by the Department of Labor will increase fairness for workers and allow employers to retain flexibility," he said in a statement.

DOL has issued the proposals and is awaiting public response to see if revisions are necessary.

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