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The Seattle Restrictive Scheduling Threat

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August 15, 2016

Dear Mayor Murray,

 

On behalf of our members who operate retail and food service businesses, we oppose this legislation and ask that you withdraw your proposed retail scheduling ordinance or that the City Council defeat it.

We appreciate your willingness to carefully examine this issue in all of its complexity. And employee scheduling is an extraordinarily complex process for businesses. A myriad of factors impact how businesses schedule their employees, from the size and type of business to weather and employee illness.

It is important to understand the degree to which employers must compete for employees in a tight labor market like Seattle. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of employers try hard to satisfy the scheduling requests of their employees, knowing that a happy employee is far less likely to quit their job. Low employee turnover saves the employer money and, in many cases, builds stronger customer loyalty because of the relationships they develop with employees.

As you know, the Washington Retail Association has submitted public record requests to your office to better understand the development of both the Vigdor study and the legislation itself. We would appreciate the opportunity to thoroughly review those records before you transmit legislation to the City Council.

Although the Vigdor study was more anecdotal than scientific in nature, it did clearly show that most Seattle employees are happy with their work hours. In fact, 63% expressed satisfaction with the number of hours they work and more than 80% stated that they have control over the hours they work. This study did not reveal the kind of widespread problems that would justify moving ahead quickly before all potential impacts of the legislation are fully understood.

As one example, a requirement that employers offer additional hours to existing employees (rather than new employees) will restrict the ability of businesses to participate in your own Summer Youth Employment Program. That same provision will also make it more difficult for college students to find temporary jobs in the summer and over the holidays.

We also have strong concerns about several other provisions included in the PowerPoint that your staff has shared with business stakeholders.

  • Predictive Pay. To date, the PowerPoint presentations have not distinguished between employee-initiated and employer-initiated changes in the work schedule. Therefore, an employer who fills a shift for a sick employee would have to pay a higher “predictive pay” to the employee called in to fill the shift. The same is true when an employee quits abruptly. The employer would be forced to pay “predictive pay” to every employee called in to fill those shifts.

Even if this distinction is made in the legislation, predictive pay creates enormous problems for employers. In San Francisco, the predictive scheduling ordinance only requires predictive pay for employer-initiated changes to the work schedule. The experience in San Francisco is clear: predictive pay costs employees hours, as managers often decide to not fill the shift or they fill it themselves.

  • Access to hours. The PowerPoint presentation includes limitations of the ability of business to hire new employees. This provision would require an employer to post any additional hours to existing employees for three days. In addition, an existing employee has an additional two days to accept the hours. Only after that five-day period expires could an employer hire a new employee to work those hours. This provision could result in a shift within that five-day period going unfilled, costing a new employee several days of work while the hours are posted. Again, this provision could cost employees hours of work.
  • Right to Rest. This provision mandates ten hours of rest between shifts unless the employee consents in writing to working with less rest. However, the employer must pay that employee 1.5x the hourly wage, effectively eliminating less than ten hours between shifts. Some employees bunch their shifts closely together to free up the rest of the week for school, pursuing other interests, working other jobs, caring for a family member and a myriad of other reasons. We do not limit the ability of a surgeon to work 48 straight hours, so why are we mandating 10 hours of rest for baristas and cashiers? This provision costs employees flexibility in their work.
  • Advance Notice of Schedule. This provision would require employers to publish the work schedule 14 days in advance. Any employee who works hours not listed on that advance schedule would receive predictability pay for those hours. Combined with the predictability pay requirement, this provision restricts the ability of employers to respond to factors that impact their staffing levels, from weather to late delivery of truck filled with live animals. Once again, this provision will result in fewer hours being offered to employees.

Given the fact that the Vigdor study identified additional hours as the highest priority for employees, many provisions of this potential legislation will have the exact opposite effect: fewer hours and less flexibility.

Most of our members have decades of experience in scheduling their employee work hours. Over that time, they are adjusted and fine-tuned their scheduling practices to best meet the needs of both their business and their employees. Legislation that seeks to impose a “one-size fits all” approach on hundreds of diverse businesses across the City will result in less-flexibility and fewer hours for those employees. Neither outcome benefits workers.

We urge you take the time required to fully understand this issue and the potential impact it could have on businesses and their workers. More than a dozen states and cities have decided to take additional time – or abandon the legislative effort altogether – as they developed a better understanding of the complexity and unintended consequences of predictive scheduling.

Working with the business and labor communities once draft legislation is developed will ensure that your office has a thorough understanding of how the legislation would impact businesses and employees.

We look forward to working together with you on this issue.

 

Respectfully submitted,

Jan Teague, President/CEO

Washington Retail Association

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