Lawmakers plan to introduce a measure increasing scheduling requirements in the state for businesses and their employees, and to move the bill through the Legislature during the lame duck session.
The proposal is aimed at clamping down on the kinds of last-minute scheduling that advocates say typically affects lower-wage workers in the warehouse, hospitality and retail sectors and leads to anon health, social and family life.
“This piece of legislation… will mandate the length of time and issues around scheduling,” Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-37th District, said at a Wednesday rally in Teaneck. “There will be notice requirements, there will be pay requirements.”
Weinberg said the bill would be dropped in the near future, and that lawmakers hope to move the bill through both the Assembly and Senate during the lame duck session, which runs between the Nov. 5 elections and the start of the next two-year Assembly session in the first week of January.
Another lawmaker, Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake, D-34th District, also signaled support of the measure, in a press release from Make the Road New Jersey, which organized the rally as part of a broader week-long campaign.
“I proudly stand in solidarity with the organization’s dedicated members to advocate for a fair work week,” she said according to the group’s statement. “Together, we can transform New Jersey’s support for its working class, uplifting communities and creating a voice for the voiceless.”
Adil Ahmed, who oversees organizing at Make the Road NJ, said that the practice of “erratic, on-call scheduling, instability scheduling” by employers has prevented many hourly workers from enjoying a life outside of work with family and friends, and has led to overall lower health.
Workers might be told just days in advance what their schedule will be, forcing many employees to cancel family and other engagements, according to Make the Road NJ.
Others might be told just hours beforehand when they are expected to show up to work, effectively leaving them “on call” at all times of the day in anticipation, the campaign adds.
This process is known as “just-in-time” scheduling,” Ahmed said.
That kind of scheduling, according to Investopedia, uses complex software so that companies can predict when they will most likely need certain products and assets – in this case workers – and schedule their use for just those times. This way, they cut down on costs, rather than have workers scheduled for a specific shift “just-in-case” they are needed.
“Currently, New Jersey’s labor laws do not require employers to provide hourly workers with any minimum advance notice of their scheduling… or compensate workers for being on call” Ahmed said. “If you’re on call and waiting at home, it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you’re waiting and that’s work and that should be compensated.”
But the proposal drew the wariness of the conservative-leaning National Federation of Independent Business New Jersey chapter, which called the measure “unworkable, inflexible and expensive for small business owners.”
“When small businesses are struggling to cover shifts and are forced to pay out premiums for unanticipated changes, it will be difficult and expensive,” NFIB New Jersey Director Laurie Ehlbeck said in a statement.
New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Bracken, as well as Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey President Anthony Russo, were also both wary of the proposal.
“We just can’t keep doing this, more rules, more fingerpointing at businesses, more vitriol at businesses, more legislation that [is] not based on fully vetted facts,” Bracken said. “It’s all the ‘guilty until proven innocent’. We have to stop all of this negative portrayal of businesses in New Jersey.”
Like Ehlbeck, Russo said he was wary of any unintended consequences on business owners, especially those who treat their employees well.
“When you’re talking about ‘how do I run my business and how do I compensate my employees’, it’s government overreach,” Russo said. “When you cross that boundary, now you’re going to dictate how a businessman, businesswoman, operates their business.”