Soapbox

Bill on schedules is bad for business

Dan Zuccaro of El Dorado Hills is fitted for new shoes by Amy Phillips at a Fleet Feet in Sacramento last October. A bill before the Legislature would limit how employers can schedule retail workers.
Dan Zuccaro of El Dorado Hills is fitted for new shoes by Amy Phillips at a Fleet Feet in Sacramento last October. A bill before the Legislature would limit how employers can schedule retail workers. Sacramento Bee file

A recently introduced bill has reignited the debate over scheduling practices for retail employees in California. Senate Bill 878, authored by Sen. Connie Leyva of Chino, lays out a dangerous framework that will stifle large and small businesses throughout the state.

Astonishingly, the proposed legislation goes even further than an ordinance recently implemented in San Francisco to limit how businesses can modify employee schedules. The San Francisco policy requires that workers get two weeks’ notice of work schedules and receive compensation for schedule changes made on less than seven days’ notice.

I was commissioned by the California Retailers Association to look at the early impacts, and the results are troubling. Talking to retail employees, it became clear that a scheduling problem did not exist before the new policy. I’m baffled why local and state officials are proposing a law to fix it.

I did repeatedly hear from workers, however, that the new San Francisco ordinance eliminates scheduling flexibility, transfers the burden of last-minute changes to the employee to find a replacement, decreases the number of extra hours available to employees who want them and discourages open communication between employee and employer. Employers expressed similar sentiments, saying they would rather have a shift go unfilled than face penalties for coercing scheduling changes.

Customers are feeling the impact as well. Employers are unable to respond to unexpected demand and as a result, service takes longer or isn’t available.

Despite these problems, SB 878 would not only cover large retailers, but also small stores. It would deny an employer the opportunity to honor an employee’s request to come in late or leave early, or trade shifts with another worker.

AB 878 would also impose outrageous penalties significantly beyond those in San Francisco and would allow a private right of action for any violation, inevitably creating potential for a flood of frivolous lawsuits. For example, a minor violation for an employee working 10 minutes over their shift would result in a massive fine and the right for legal action against the business. Clearly, AB 878 goes too far.

Unlike many bills before the Legislature, there is a true test case. In San Francisco, the results were eye-opening. I hope it highlights for lawmakers the importance of doing their researching before proposing policies that are not only unnecessary, but create a problem where one did not exist in the first place.

Lon Hatamiya, former secretary of the California Technology, Trade and Commerce Agency, is president and CEO of the Hatamiya Group in Davis. He can be contacted at lon@hatamiyagroup.com.

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