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S. 3256 (116th): Schedules That Work Act

Is that too burdensome a mandate on businesses, which may require such 11th hour adjustments?


Millions of Americans have jobs with erratic schedules subject to change as late at the last minute, particularly for hourly rather than salaried jobs.

That’s not just stressful for workers but their children; about 10% of children have parents with such jobs, which can make it difficult for those parents to plan childcare. Such work schedules are more likely to be experienced by women than men, and by nonwhite people than whites.

“Right to request” laws have recently been enacted in states including Vermont and cities including San Francisco. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia have such laws on a national level.

While specifics vary, these laws usually require a certain length advance notice for posting work schedules (such as two weeks), and mandate employers compensate employees for late scheduling changes (such as changes within two days of a scheduled shift). They usually apply to organizations with a certain number of employees, exempting smaller businesses.

What the legislation does

The Schedules That Work Act would implement several reforms in this direction, including:

  • Mandating employees’ work schedules, or changes to work schedules, are posted at least 14 days in advance. Failure to comply will cost $75 per day, per affected employee.
  • Guaranteeing an employee’s right to request a change in their work schedule — in hours, location, or times — without retaliation.
  • Preventing employees from being forced to work back-to-back shifts without at least 11 hours span to rest or sleep in between. Any employee who does so would be required to get paid at 1.5 times their normal pay rate for those shifts.

The House version was introduced on November 8 as bill number H.R. 5004, by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3). The Senate version was introduced three months later on February 5 as bill number S. 3256, by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the legislation is fair for millions of working Americans, preventing them from getting blindsided with last-moment schedule drops or add-ons.

“People are working in jobs that do not pay them enough to keep up with the rising costs of healthcare, child care, housing, and education,” Rep. DeLauro said in a press release. “That problem is compounded when working people do not have a voice in their schedules, which not only impacts them, but also their families… Working people deserve to have dignity in their work and the ability to plan their lives, and our legislation will ensure that they do.”

“More than half of hourly workers, many of whom are workers of color, get their work schedules with less than a week’s notice, making it nearly impossible for them to go back to school, maintain stable child care, and sometimes to pay the bills,” Sen. Warren said in a press release. The bill would “empower these workers to regain control over their work schedules and to build some economic security for themselves and their families.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that such laws are a burden for businesses’ operating costs and planning.

Businesses have “impracticability” in “anticipating schedule changes for events as disparate as heavy business, slow business, poor attendance due to employee illness or personal events, or poor attendance due to weather related events,” wrote the International Franchise Association, Restaurant Law Center, and New York State Restaurant Association in a joint legal challenge to a 2017 New York City right-to-request law.

“Many fast food employers have already incurred and will continue to incur significant cost increases in both premium payments and administrative management of the scheduling process,” the legal complaint continued. “Service to customers has been rendered more difficult and hiring needs have become much harder to address.”

Odds of passage

Previous House versions introduced by Rep. DeLauro attracted 102 Democratic cosponsors in 2015 and 97 Democratic cosponsors in 2017. Neither version received a vote in the then Republican-controlled chamber.

The current version has attracted 53 Democratic cosponsors. It’s unclear why this version only has about half the prior cosponsors, especially considering there are more Democrats in the current Congress. It awaits a potential vote in the House Education and Labor, Administration, Oversight and Reform, or Judiciary Committee.

Previous Senate versions introduced by Sen. Warren attracted 18 cosponsors (17 Democrats and one independent) in 2015, and 23 cosponsors (22 Democrats and one independent) in 2017. Neither version received a vote in the then Republican-controlled chamber.

The current version has attracted an identical 23 cosponsors: 22 Democrats and one independent. It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Odds of passage are low in the Republican-controlled chamber.

Last updated Mar 26, 2020. View all GovTrack summaries.

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