A poster from New York City's Fair Workweek Law.

Imagine the following scenario: You’re a single parent, working full-time at a big-box store. You return home at the end of a long afternoon shift at work. You cook dinner for your child, sit down to help with homework, and read a book.  As you get your child ready for bed, you get a text at 10 p.m. from your supervisor telling you to report to work the next day at 6 a.m..

Even though you weren’t scheduled to work, declining the shift is not an option because you could get fired or lose future work shifts. After scrambling to find last-minute childcare, you go to bed only to wake up to a new text message from your boss who has canceled your shift. Now you’re on the hook for childcare costs after losing the shift you were relying on to pay for a babysitter.

For some of us, this might seem far-fetched. But for more than 350,000 hourly service Connecticut workers, many earning the minimum wage, on-call scheduling practices are not an exception — it’s the norm.

When employees work “on-call,” they’re often forced to report 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.  When regular or on-call shifts are canceled at the last minute, employees may have already forfeited other opportunities to work another job or already have paid for transportation and childcare. Last-minute scheduling changes make it difficult for working parents to schedule doctor’s appointments, work a second job, or attend parent-teacher conferences.

Connecticut can help limit these practices. In recent years, several state and local governments have enacted fair work week legislation to protect employees from the constant instability of on-call shift scheduling. Two bills currently under consideration in the Connecticut legislature (S.B. 764 and H.B. 6924) seek to limit this practice at large retail, restaurant, and hospitality establishments, where the most abusive use of on-call scheduling occurs.

Under the legislation, employers would be required to provide three days notice to workers when scheduling shifts. If a shift is canceled within the three-day window, employees would receive partial pay. Conversely, employees would be protected if they choose to decline a shift scheduled within the notice period.

The proposed “Fair Work Week” law would provide employees with a modicum of control over their work schedules. Working families would have more financial stability simply by requiring businesses to apply responsible scheduling practices.

It’s time for Connecticut legislators pass a fair workweek law, as many of our neighbors. Recently, Philadelphia passed regulations limiting on-call scheduling practices. Other cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco have also passed similar legislation. And in 2017, the state of Oregon passed a Fair Workweek law that requires employers to provide a minimum of one weeks’ notice.

Connecticut’s workers need a fair work week. More so, workers deserve to have a voice in their schedules.

Carlos Moreno is Deputy State Director of the Working Families Party.

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  1. I agree with the principles of the “Fair Work Week” (as I expect many small businesses would) but 48 hours is far more realistic for the larger employers otherwise you risk much larger layoffs in the private sector during recessions. Unfortunately for smaller employers this legislation will not matter as much due to the inflexibility minimum wage bills. A very sad benefit is as smaller employers lay off or reduce entry level and part time workers hours the unintended benefit is more stable work schedules for those that remain. This is a horrible reality that will be very difficult to fix without more legislation and it will only be avoided if we significantly grow our economy.

  2. The increase in the minimum wage is likely to make this issue more severe.
    With each hour costing more, employers will have to schedule each hour more carefully in order to reduce the total paid. With the minimum wage eventually increasing by about 50%, that’ll be essential. Small companies may merge to reduce the combined expenditures through layoffs and reduced hours.
    But legislation to restrict employers’ ability to respond to the legislature’s action is likely to produce at least as much controversy as the minimum wage increase itself.

  3. It’s time for government to butt-out of business. The new minimum wage and any laws like those suggested here that interfere with the agreement between a free and willing employee and a willing employer really has to stop. Like so many other well-intentioned bur poorly thought-out laws this will hurt those that it is intended to help most severely.
    Lawmakers need to wise-up and instead of trying to grab power in every aspect of business and life, they need to realize that they are not omnipotent and it would be best if they just Get Out of the Way.

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