Battle Brewing as de Blasio Signs Bill on Worker Scheduling

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By Jaclyn Diaz

The New York City Council’s efforts to improve working conditions for retail and restaurant workers might spread across the Empire State.

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is said to be drafting its own statewide regulations for retail and restaurant workers, Ted Potrikus, president of the Retail Council of New York State, told Bloomberg BNA May 30. The governor’s office did not respond to Bloomberg BNA’s request for comment.

The governor’s regulations would supersede any legislation passed in New York City. The state, not the city, should handle these regulations anyway, Potrikus said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) signed the Fair Work Week legislative package May 30. It overhauls regulations on scheduling for retail and restaurant workers. The measure takes effect in 180 days.

“I don’t see any way this is valid. This is not the City Council’s jurisdiction,” Potrikus said. “This is a state issue and it shouldn’t be monkeyed with” by the city.

On-Call Scheduling, Clopenings Banned

The current culture in retail stores and restaurants is abusive and hurts some of the lowest paid workers in the city, Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said May 30.

The Fair Work Week legislative package requires employers to provide workers with set schedules two weeks in advance and bans on-call scheduling and “clopenings.” Clopenings occur when workers are scheduled to close a business one day then return for the first shift of the next day. The law requires employers in the fast-food industry to give workers at least 11 hours between shifts.

On-call scheduling requires workers to be available to work when they aren’t scheduled. Employees aren’t always guaranteed they will actually work a paid shift when they are on call. Retail and fast-food workers are most affected by this practice.

Bill Hurts More Than Helps, Employers Say

The new laws will drastically change the culture at retail stores and restaurants, Kevin Dugan, the regional director for the New York State Restaurant Association, told Bloomberg BNA. The association lobbied the city council and the mayor’s office not to support the legislation.

If employers are found to be in violation of these laws, they can face hefty fines upward of several hundred dollars and could be sued by workers, Dugan said.

“Most fast food or quick service restaurants operate on a small profit margin,” and those fines could be the last nail in a struggling restaurant’s coffin, he said.

The new regulations also ruin the flexibility that restaurant workers thrive on and make it difficult for an employer to call in another employee if a worker calls out unexpectedly, he said.

All Eyes on Albany

Statewide rules would prevent other cities or counties in New York from adopting their own version of the Fair Work Week legislative package. Creating retail and restaurant industry regulations on a city-by-city basis creates disorganization and complicates life for workers and businesses, Potrikus said.

The Retail Council has not pursued legal challenges to the city’s regulations. Potrikus said he is looking forward to seeing what the governor will present.

“It takes time to get this right,” he said.

Council Member Brad Lander, the main developer of the Fair Work Week package, said he, too, is awaiting the governor’s next move.

Cuomo could extend the protections presented by the city council’s package or he can create a package that would undermine the work the city council has done, Lander said.

“If the governor extends our protections for retail and fast food workers then that’s great,” he said. “That would be a step forward. But if he weakens, undermines or erodes the protections that we are extending, it would be a big step background for workers.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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