March 6, 2018

Coalition backs 'fair workweek' bill limiting on-call work scheduling

A group of legislators and activists hosted a press conference Tuesday morning to support a so-called "fair workweek" bill limiting what they call abusive on-call scheduling across large retail, food service, hospitality and certain nursing home operations.

The Fair Workweek Coalition is backing Senate Bill 321, which would limit on-call shift scheduling by guaranteeing workers are compensated for lost time when hours are cut at the last minute.

Advocates say the bill, which is receiving a public hearing today in the Committee on Children, can lift up the state's low-wage hourly workers who struggle to earn a stable income because of unpredictable work schedules and are often called to work with little notice, maintain open availability for "on-call" shifts without any guarantee of work, and have shifts canceled at the last minute.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), opposes the measure. In written testimony on the bill, CBIA lobbyist Eric Gjede said it would prohibit on-call employment by requiring employers to give at least 24 hours prior notice to an employee of such employee's shift.

"In the clear majority of employment circumstances, employers are able to provide employees with their schedules well in advance," Gjede said. "However, on-call employment positions are a critical component of certain industries that are unable to determine their labor needs in advance."

Employers may not have the resources, equipment or materials needed for segments of their workforce to work on a particular day. Further, it makes employers unable to adjust for unexpected employee absences, he said.

For example, he said, builders may be forced to pay workers to install materials that have not yet been delivered to the job site.

"Mandating employers in certain industries commit to the size of their workforce in advance will also mandate the employer take a financial loss during periods of time in which their business is slower or busier than expected," he said.

Meantime, Lori Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, supports the bill.

"It's hard enough to be a low-wage worker in Connecticut – struggling to cover rent, put food on the table, pay for childcare, and meeting many of life's other basic necessities," she said. "But on-demand scheduling for low-wage workers makes it downright impossible to make ends meet."

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