Secure scheduling ordinance goes into the home stretch

This afternoon the Council will consider ten amendments to the proposed “secure scheduling” ordinance, and hopefully vote the final version out of committee.

Five of the amendments were submitted by Council member Tim Burgess, generally considered the most business-friendly of the Council members. Two were co-authored by Burgess and CRUEDA committee chair Lisa Herbold, two by Herbold alone, and one by Council member Debora Juarez.

Burgess’s amendments are straightforward clarifications.

  1. Various aspects of the ordinance restrict employers’ actions unless a “bona fide business reason” exists. This amendment amends the definition of “bona fide business reason” to clarify that it includes avoiding doing something illegal.
  2.  This amendment clarifies the definition of “written” communication to include one that is “transmitted through email, text message or a computer system, or is otherwise sent and maintained electronically.” The old definition stated that it could  be in physical or electronic format, but didn’t specify if/how it might be transmitted.
  3. A big chunk of the legislation defines the circumstances around which an employer must pay extra compensation to an employee for short-notice schedule changes. A difficult issue has been how to deal with when employees attempt to arrange their own shift swaps without penalizing employers for good behavior in trying to facilitate them. This amendment clarifies that the employer can assist an employee in identifying other employees to contact about a shift swap without responsibility for additional compensation, but may not actually arrange the shift swap.
  4. The ordinance states that when additional hours become available, employers must post them at the employee’s workplace. This amendment clarifies that “the employee’s workplace” is based on the employer’s usual and customary business practice.
  5. This amendment states that when an employer posts additional hours available and more than one employee expresses interest in them, the employer has the flexibility to split the hours across employees or offer them all to a single employee.

The Burgess/Herbold joint amendments are also pretty tame:

6. A much-debated issue has been when an employer is required to pay additional compensation when offering additional hours. A compromise was struck that specified that the employer did not need to pay extra if the hours were offered through “mass communication” rather than directed at an individual employee — which was envisioned as an email sent out to a large number of employees. This amendment extends that exception to include the situation where an employer wants to offer additional hours to employees already at work, if that offer is made as “an in-person group communication to address present or unanticipated customer needs.”

7. This amendment cleans up the language around managing the “access to hours list” — the list of people that an employer must offer hours to before hiring an additional employee externally.

Herbold’s amendments:

8.  This amendment clarifies that an employer’s annual “good faith estimate” of an employee’s work hours is calculated from the point of the last good faith estimate (rather than tied to a calendar).

9. The ordinance specifies that employers may not engage in systematic underscheduling. This amendment provides an exception in the case of a bona fide business reason (it will be interesting to hear what examples of bona fide business reasons are given to justify this).

And finally, Juarez’s amendment may be the most controversial of the set (and the most business-friendly):

10. The ordinance explicitly gives employees the right to decline to work any hours not included in the advance-notice work schedule. This amendment strikes that right, meaning that an employer may require an employee to work a shift on short-notice.

The first nine will likely sail through. The fate of Juarez’s amendment may depend on who shows up to the committee meeting, and on how well Juarez makes the case for it (the briefing memo provides no justification).

Those who hoped that Burgess would put forth some business-friendly last minute modifications will be disappointed, and those who feared he would can rest easy. The bigger question is why Juarez is proposing a blatantly business-friendly (and employee-unfriendly) amendment. I for one can’t wait to hear her justify it.

There is nothing in this list that would likely cause further delay of the amendment, so expect the committee meeting to end with a vote to send the amended ordinance to the full Council next Monday for final approval and bring to a close a six-month legislative process.

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