As Sen. Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] is being described as “quietly influencing the presidential race,” even though this has little chance of passing before the 2016 elections, it may be worth employers watching for the future.
Sen. Warren has introduced a bill making it a legal requirement for small businesses with 15 or more employees to negotiate with employees over their work schedules and penalizes employers who violate her mandates.
Calling it the Schedules That Work Act, Warren’s bill mandates that small (and large) businesses in the cleaning, retail and restaurant industries engage “in a timely, good faith interactive process” with their employees that includes “a discussion of potential schedule changes that would meet the employee’s needs.”
While the bill specifically takes aim at “retail, food service, or cleaning” employers, it also leaves the door wide open for any “additional occupation designated by the Secretary [of Labor].”
Under Warren’s bill, employees are to be granted the legal right (which they already have) to “request a change in the terms and conditions of employment as they relate to…”
- the number of hours the employee is required to work or be on call for work;
- the times when the employee is required to work or be on call for work;
- the location where the employee is required to work;
- the amount of notification the employee receives of work schedule assignments; and
- minimizing fluctuations in the number of hours the employee is scheduled to work on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. [p. 18]
Warren’s bill also mandates that employers pay a minimum of four hours pay (whether they work a full four hours or not); pay one hour of pay to each employee who is “on call” or required to call in within 24 hours for work; pay an additional hour to each employee who works a split shift; as well as mandates that employers provide employees with schedules in writing “not less than 14 days before the first day of the new work schedule [p. 22].”
On schedule changes, the bill also mandates that employers “shall also provide notification of that change, not less than 14 days in advance of the first day this change will go into effect [p. 22].”
If an employer changes a schedule with less than 24 hours notice, “an employer shall be required to provide one extra hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each shift that is changed [p. 23].”
While her bill prohibits employer retaliation against employees who exercise their “rights” under the bill, Warren also makes employers liable for their lost wages, as well as “any actual monetary losses sustained by the employee as a direct result of the violation [p.28].”
In other words, if an employee had to pay for child care to accomodate an employer’s sudden schedule change, the employer would be required to pay for the employee’s child care, in addition to liquidated damages and interest.
In addition, employers would also be subjected to paying plantiffs’ [employees’] attorney fees, witness fees, as well as potential civil penalties [p. 30].
While Sen. Warren’s bill, as stated above, has little chances of being passed prior to the 2016 elections, dependent on the make up of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as who wins the presidency, 2017 may be a very interesting year for employers.