The National Retail Federation weighed in Wednesday on behalf of Washington, D.C.’s 7,000 retail establishments against what it called “restrictive scheduling legislation” being considered by the D.C. city council.
The NRF noted that the proposed citywide law would require retailers and restaurants to post schedules for their employees 21 days in advance, with steep penalties attached to any changes made thereafter.
Curbing what is called “just-in-time scheduling” has emerged as a key issue for labor groups across the country.
A survey of 572 voters in the district conducted by Public Policy Polling in late October found overwhelming support for giving working people more stable and predictable work schedules at retail and food service employers. The survey, sponsored by DC Jobs With Justice and DC Fiscal Policy Institute, found 86 percent of surveyed voters support rules to stabilize work schedules. Support increased when voters were asked about the specific provisions of the Just Hours policy, with 87 percent supporting a requirement for employers in chain retail and food services to post schedules two weeks in advance and 88 percent supporting requiring employers to offer available hours to current employees before hiring new workers.
The survey led to introducing legislation in the D.C. council that would fight against “just-in-time” scheduling by setting strict guidelines telling companies how much advance notice they must give their employees when scheduling their shifts.
David French, senior vice president for government relations at NRF, in a letter to the city council’s Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said, “Scheduling mandates are restrictive for all parties involved and have sweeping unintended consequences.”
In its letter, NRF said the approach “ties the hands of employers and takes away the flexibility and opportunities that many D.C. residents seek in a retail job.”
“The local retail industry is competitive and fast-paced and revolves around a number of variables,” the NRF wrote. “Currently, if an employee calls in sick, wants to attend an event at their child’s school, needs extra time for a school paper or any other host of circumstances, retailers are able to accommodate those often last-minute requests by offering those shifts to other employees without incurring government penalty. Similarly, if a delivery truck is delayed because of bad weather or unexpectedly warm December weather increases foot traffic, retailers are able to adapt to ensure proper staffing levels and great customer service. These circumstances cannot be predicted 21 days in advance and an employer should not be punished with a fine for accommodating an employee’s schedule change or other circumstances beyond [the employer’s] control.”
But labor groups have pointed out that employees rely on knowing they have specific hours and salaries. This type of workers’ rights legislation has already been passed in San Francisco and is being considered in places like Indiana, Maryland and Massachusetts.
The NRF letter, citing high unemployment rates in the district compared to neighboring Virgina and Maryland, added, “The council should proceed with caution when considering measures that place D.C. businesses and employment opportunities for our residents at a competitive disadvantage.”