The proposed scheduling law unveiled this week by the mayor and several council members is being carefully scrutinized by business groups ahead of a public hearing on Tuesday.
When Seattle’s mayor and several council members released their proposed scheduling law last week, the union-backed group Working Washington quickly announced its support for the sweeping proposal designed to protect workers from erratic and unpredictable work schedules.
Business groups that also had taken part in talks to shape the proposal were slower to voice their reaction, but they are now beginning to express their concerns.
“The city is obviously trying to do away with part-time work,” Jan Teague, president/CEO of the Washington Retail Association, wrote in a blog post Thursday. She called the proposal “clear as mud.”
Public hearing on scheduling law
• A public hearing on the proposed scheduling law will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave.
• The City Council committee working on the law will meet twice more to discuss the proposal: Sept. 7 at noon and Sept. 13 at 9:30 a.m.
The proposed law would require large retailers and many large food-service companies to post workers’ schedules 14 days in advance, pay extra “predictability pay” for last-minute schedule changes, and offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new workers, among other provisions.
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The law would apply to retailers and fast-food, coffee and drinking establishments with 500 or more employees worldwide, and to full-service restaurants with 500 or more employees and more than 40 establishments worldwide.
That 40-establishment threshold effectively exempts significant local restaurant entrepreneurs such as Tom Douglas or Ethan Stowell. Ivar’s quick-serve seafood bars would be covered, but its three full-service restaurants would not.
Teague also warned that the scheduling law could be broadened in the future to cover a wider range of businesses.
“We have known for some time that Seattle’s intent is to broaden who has to comply with work schedule mandates,” she wrote.
That concern is shared by Meadow Johnson, senior vice president of government relations at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
“Seattle is an amazing place where we grow brands: Starbucks, Zillow, Amazon. We want to make sure that businesses have the ability to grow,” she said in an interview.
“Labor laws are important and exist for a reason,” she continued. However, “We want to make sure that they’re flexible with business models. A one-size-fits-all policy does not work for every business.”
Johnson said the chamber is seeking clarification on several aspects of the proposal, including how closely an employer must stick with the good-faith estimate given to employees when they’re hired on how many hours they are likely to work each week.
“Do you need to be within two hours of the good-faith estimate initially given? One hour? What are the recourses and parameters?” she said.
In general, Johnson said, “the business community is frustrated that there’s some nefarious desire to assume that business practices are incongruent with best practices for their employees.”
The Washington Restaurant Association, meanwhile, is focusing on trying to change a portion of the proposal regarding so-called “predictability pay” — what employers must pay workers when changes are made to the schedule after it’s been posted.
Under the proposal, employers would pay workers one hour of “predictability pay” (in addition to regular wages) for such last-minute changes if the employee ends up working more hours. (There are exceptions for employee-initiated shift swaps or if an employer fills an unexpectedly open shift by using “mass communications” such as text or email to ask workers if they can fill the shift.)
Workers who don’t get all the hours for which they’ve been scheduled get paid half of their hourly wage for each hour cut.
Jillian Henze, a spokeswoman with the Washington Restaurant Association, said the group is pushing for no predictability pay if the employee initiates the change for any reason.
For instance, if an employee gets a flat tire while driving to work, and the employer directly asks another worker to fill that shift (rather than sending out a mass email or text asking for volunteers), the employer has to give the worker predictability pay under the proposed law.
Henze pointed out that San Francisco, the first major city to pass a scheduling law, exempts predictability pay in situations where employees unable to work their scheduled shift did not provide at least seven days’ notice, and where employees failed to report to work.
Advocates for the proposed law say the predictability-pay provisions are designed to protect workers from feeling coerced into working extra hours if they don’t want to, and to compensate them for changing their schedules at the last minute.
Not all businesses were displeased with the proposal.
Frank Jorgensen, vice president of labor relations for Safeway/Albertsons, said during a City Council committee meeting last week that “we believe it strikes a good balance on the issues while also respecting the long-term history in Seattle of collective bargaining between employers and unions.”
The proposed law allows unionized workers and their employers to negotiate arrangements that meet the aims of the secure scheduling law.
All sides on the issue will get a chance to express their views during a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
The aim is to get legislation to the full City Council by mid-September.