D.C. Scheduling Law Would Have Done More Harm than Good

**Washington, D.C.’s City Council was expected to consider scheduling legislation this week that would force companies to provide work schedules to their employees at least 14 days in advance. The sponsor of the scheduling bill has unexpectedly removed it from the council agenda, “citing concerns raised by councilmembers and the business community,” according to BNA Bloomberg labor reporter Jon Steingart. The following reaction and analysis was prepared before the agenda change.**

Under the proposal, a change in employee schedule within the 14-day period results in one hour of pay and four hours pay with less than 24 hours of advance notice. The rule also forces extra hours to be given to existing part-time employees instead of hiring new ones. These rules would only apply to chains with a minimum of 40 locations, up from the originally proposed 20 locations and 21-day advanced notice.

The Washington Post lauds these advancements, along with the recent increase to a $15 minimum wage, as elements that make the District “one of the most labor-friendly cities in the country.”

However, these proposals are sure to stifle business in the nation’s capital.

Councilman Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) explained how business could be dissuaded from expanding to the region and even could prevent chains from expanding to 20 or more locations. He said, “I believe that the legislation before us could adversely affect the future hiring of new employees, seasonal employees and college students, and we must ask ourselves what this will do to our local economy.”

These burdensome requirements on employers will significantly harm certain segments of the economy based on a part-time labor force.

So while some believe these policies make D.C. “one of the most labor-friendly cities in the country,” it also surely makes it one of the least business-friendly cities. With the onslaught of onerous employment laws, many companies will choose avoid D.C., which eliminates employment opportunities rather than encourages them.

This policy follows the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule which purports to improve worker pay, yet will likely have net negative impacts on employment and workers’ opportunity to move up the career ladder.

Kamal Ali, one of the co-owners of the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, aired his grievances with this new legislation. He explained how typical bills aimed to aid workers, like minimum wage increases, can be overcome with price increases, but draws a contrast with this bill.

“The Hours and Scheduling Stability Act of 2015 institutes a roadblock between me and my employees. It presents an undue burden on working parents, students, seniors, and workers with multiple jobs; it makes my job as a boss harder, and their lives as employees less stable.”

These policies are particularly damaging for the retail and restaurant industries, which has various peaks and valleys in terms of labor needs and may not be able to correctly predict those more than two weeks in advance.

Ali elaborated on this, asking what would happen if an employee was sick or if demand was variant due to uncontrollable circumstances. “I’d be punished financially for asking his co-workers to pick up his hours or swap shifts. Essentially, I’d be left unable to communicate additional staffing needs in the face of any number of variables, from a late night playoff game, to a crippling snowstorm,” he said.

David French, Senior Vice President for Government Relations at the National Retail Federation, explained to the city council’s Committee on Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that “Scheduling mandates are restrictive for all parties involved and have sweeping unintended consequences.”

Ali believes these consequences include lost investment and relocation to the suburbs. “I worry that this not only hampers my ability to do business but also scares away potential investment from other businesses looking to set-up shop in the District alongside me,” he said.

The scheduling law’s negative consequences are not limited to employers. Flexibility for employees is at risk as well.

Ali elaborated on this point examining how this legislation would harm part-time workers. “It decreases opportunity for workers who aren’t necessarily looking to pick up extra hours. Whether they’re high school or college students balancing hectic schedules, working parents confronting shifting childcare needs, or seniors looking to supplement Social Security benefits without working full time, the results will be the same: the part-time jobs that many of my employees — and employees of other, similar businesses — have come to rely on will be gone,” he said.

Altogether, this bill is labeled as labor friendly; yet the accompanying unintended consequences will likely be more detrimental than beneficial to all involved; employers, investors, employees and even customers.