Mpls. businesses line up against 'fair scheduling' rule

Downtown Minneapolis
Under the proposal, Minneapolis employers would have to compensate workers for any unexpected schedule changes.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2011

Minneapolis businesses are mobilizing against a proposed ordinance that would require them to create employee work schedules four weeks in advance.

Under the draft proposal, employers would have to compensate workers for any unexpected schedule changes. Mayor Betsy Hodges and key members of the City Council want to make Minneapolis the second city in the country with a so-called "fair scheduling" rule.

Jermaine Jackson works behind the cash register at a Super America convenience store in northeast Minneapolis. He says his schedule changes every week — sometimes with little advanced notice.

Jermaine Jackson
Jermaine Jackson works at a Super America convenience store in Minneapolis. He supports the city's proposal requiring employers to give more advanced warning before changing their employees' work schedules
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

"So what they will do is, instead of calling and ask me if I could cover the shift, they will just go write it in. And I will come into work the next day, like, I was supposed to have tomorrow off. No," he said. "So it just affects a lot of things: My social life, me trying to go to school, me trying to find another job. It really messes up what I have."

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Under the current draft of the proposed ordinance, Jackson's employer would have to pay him an extra hour's wages when it makes a change like that. He'd get four hours extra pay if the change was made with less than a day's notice.

The proposed ordinance would also address another complaint Jackson has about his schedule — back-to-back shifts.

"I'll be scheduled to work overnight which is 10 at night until 6 in the morning, and then I'll have to be back in 2 in the afternoon to 10 o'clock at night," he said. "So I'll only have probably six hours of sleep."

If the City Council approves the proposal, Jackson would get paid time-and-a-half for that second shift or if he worked any shift lasting longer than eight hours.

Minneapolis businesses are lining up against the proposal. Todd Klingel, president of the local chamber of commerce, says he's been talking to City Council members about scaling back the proposed regulations. Klingel says his members have reacted to the proposal with disbelief.

"Somebody thought it must be April Fool's," Klingel said. "Others said, how can they think about ideas like this? Don't they understand how we work? And the truth is: they don't."

The concerns came from a wide range of industries.

Nick Rancone
Nick Rancone is one of the owners of the Nicollet Avenue restaurants Corner Table and Revival. He says the city's proposed employee scheduling regulations are unworkable.
Curtis Gilbert | MPR News

Allina Health put out a statement saying, quote, "flu epidemics, disease and accidents do not necessarily adhere to predictable daily patterns," and that "rigid scheduling regulations" are inconsistent with responding to those medical needs.

Nick Rancone employs 55 people at two Nicollet Avenue restaurants — Revival and Corner Table. He says predicting right now how many servers he'll need in late October is impossible.

"So we're saying that if I have a patio that I'm trying to staff, it's like it might snow at the end of this month, right? So if we get snow at the end of October, obviously I'm not going to have anybody who's going to want to dine on the patio," Rancone said.

Government regulation of employee work schedules is a fairly new concept, but it's one that's generating a lot of interest among Democratic leaders around the country. Bills have been introduced in a dozen state Legislatures, including Minnesota's, but so far none has become law.

Earlier this year, San Francisco became the first city to enact such a mandate. David Chiu championed the ordinance when he was president of the city's Board of Supervisors. Chiu said he did it because he was concerned about something called "just-in-time" scheduling.

"What we've seen in recent years is that scheduling practices have dramatically changed, particularly for the largest corporations in the world, due to technologies that allow employers to schedule employees at the very last minute," Chiu said.

Chiu's ordinance applied only to large chain retailers and restaurants, which had adopted the practice of calling in more workers when business picked up, and sending employees home when it slowed down.

By contrast, the proposal in Minneapolis would apply to every company operating in the city. City Council Vice President Elizabeth Glidden stressed it's only a draft, and she expects it to undergo plenty of changes. But she says it's important for the city to improve conditions for the people who work there.

"Our minimum standards for the workplace have really not been keeping pace with the needs of workers and with businesses," Glidden said.

The city is also considering a requirement that all businesses provide paid sick time to their employees. The Council is expected to vote on both proposals, what Mayor Betsy Hodges calls her "Working Families Agenda," in the next month or so.