State Senator Pushing Bill to Regulate Unpredictable Work Schedules

State Senator Jose Peralta (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer).
State Senator Jose Peralta (Photo: Will Bredderman/New York Observer). Will Bredderman/Observer

A Democratic state senator is introducing legislation to require food, cleaning and retail businesses to give workers two weeks notice of a change in their work schedules.

State Senator Jose Peralta, a Queens lawmaker, said the legislation is needed to help low income workers in the service sector better plan their lives in an increasingly unpredictable work environment. His bill would also require certain employers to give a months notice to their employees of the minimum hours of work.

“This will really allow employees, especially low wage workers, to be given the ability to effectively manage their personal lives, child care and health care needs,” Mr. Peralta said in a telephone interview with the Observer. “There will be a decrease in absenteeism or just out of nowhere missing out on work because [employees] just received shift schedules yesterday.”

The issue of low wage workers facing erratic work scheduling has taken on more national prominence in recent years. An April study from the Economic Policy Institute found that about 17 percent of the workforce is saddled with “unstable” work shift schedules.

Mr. Peralta said that a stalled federal bill, the “Schedules That Work” Act, inspired his legislative effort in the State Senate. The bill, introduced last year by retired California Congressman George Miller, a Democrat in the Republican-controlled House, and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, another Democrat, would protect employees from retaliation for requesting a more flexible or predictable work schedule, among other safeguards.

Mr. Peralta said he also looked to the example of another fellow Democrat, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Mr. Schneiderman drew headlines earlier this month for requesting detailed staffing and scheduling information from 13 big retail chains, including Target, Ann Taylor, Gap, J.C. Penney and Abercrombie & Fitch. The attorney general said he was concerned about the unpredictable schedules of retail and fast food workers, and whether the companies are following labor laws.

Mr. Peralta’s bill would apply to businesses with 50 or more full-time employees.

Business organizations immediately panned the legislation. Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City, said the bill would make New York State “less competitive for job creation.”

“We should be removing laws that add to the cost and complexity that employers face here, not adding new ones,” she said.

Ken Pokalsky, the vice president of the Business Council of New York State, said the legislation “strikes us as unworkable, unenforceable, and another unreasonable mandate forced on the state’s business community.”

State Senate Republicans, who control the upper chamber, are likely to align themselves with business leaders. A Senate spokesman did not return a request for comment.

But Mr. Peralta is optimistic, citing the initial opposition of city business leaders to the law requiring many businesses to give their employees five paid sick days.

“I think if they really look at the situation and analyze it, they will realize it benefits them to have a more productive work force,” he said. “This leads to happier employees and better productivity.” State Senator Pushing Bill to Regulate Unpredictable Work Schedules