Millions of workers in minimum wage or low-paying jobs, particularly in the hospitality industry — food service, hotels & accommodations, and similar jobs — are bedeviled by unpredictable scheduling. They may work a night shift here, a day shift there, and a few hours on the swing shift another day; often they’ll find out their work shift just a day or so before they’re scheduled to work them, leaving the workers scrambling to cover child care or make other arrangements.
Similarly, a significant percentage of those workers are expected to be “on call” and ready to work on a moment’s notice, meaning they may have to pay for child care on days they don’t wind up working. Further, many shift workers will show up for work, only to be sent home early due to slow business.
“Try scheduling child care when you don’t know whether you’ll be working 15 hours or 30 hours next week, and don’t know when those working hours will be,” Warren says.
What’s more, the system, which she calls “abusive,” disproportionately affects Black and Latinx workers, especially women.
“Black and Latinx workers are overrepresented in industries like retail and food-service that use abusive scheduling practices,” the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee says on her website.
To address these problems, Warren’s proposal would enact several new requirements when it comes to scheduling shift workers.
One key aspect of the proposal would require employers with 15 or more employees to schedule employees’ shifts at least two weeks in advance; would compensate employees for canceled shifts; and would allow employees to decline shifts that weren’t scheduled, without retribution.
Another aspect of the proposal would allow employees to make reasonable accommodations in their work schedule and would require employers to abide by them whenever possible.
“If employees ask to change their schedule to accommodate caregiving, education or training, or a second job, their employer will have to accommodate them unless they have a legitimate business reason for denying the request,” Warren says.
The plan also calls for employers to schedule employees adequate rest between shifts; so, for example, an employer wouldn’t be able to schedule someone to work 4 p.m. until closing time on Sunday night, followed immediately by an opening shift on Monday morning. Employers would also have to offer additional hours to qualified employees rather than to outside contractors and would have to provide benefits, such as paid family leave, to part-time employees as well as full-time ones.