Elizabeth Warren has a plan to end employer abuses of part-time workers

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has released another plan in her run for the Democratic nomination for president, this time to help the millions of part-time workers who are subject to, in her words, “unpredictable work schedules that leave them with too few hours to afford necessities and no control over their time.” She lays out the problem: “work assignments change by the hour, based on factors like customer demand, the time of day, the time of year, or even weather.”

That leaves workers unable to budget, not knowing how many hours they’ll work in any given month, with difficulty trying to schedule child care or appointments or running errands or furthering their own education. She cites a study of 30,000 retail and food service employees that found 80% of workers have “little to no input” in their work schedules and 70% who are essentially on-call at all hours.

Half of these workers get less than a week’s notice of their schedules and two-thirds have less than two-weeks notice; 70% said they had last-minutes changes in their schedules in just the last month. “And while low-wage workers across the economy suffer from unpredictable work schedules,” she writes, “workers of color—especially women of color—bear the brunt of these abusive scheduling practices. […] Women of color have a 5-10% greater exposure to scheduling instability even when controlling for educational attainment and comparing workers within the same company.”

To combat this, Warren will require all employers who have 15 or more employees to give two weeks of advance notice of work schedules; employees will have the right to decline work hours outside of that schedule and will be compensated for changes during those two weeks. Additionally, “employers that employ more than 15 workers will be required to consider in good faith their workers’ scheduling requests, including requests related to the number of hours they want to work and the timing and location of their shifts—and provide a justification if they can’t accommodate a request.” Her plan also prohibits forcing employees to work back-to-back shifts—having to work both the closing and opening shifts in one 24-hour period—by requiring 11 hours of break between shifts, and overtime pay for workers who volunteer to work within that window.

To combat the practice of very large employers bringing in new part-time hires or contractors to avoid having regular part-timers work more hours that would qualify them for benefits, she would also require that they schedule those hours of work to qualified existing part-time workers before they could bring in new workers. Finally, she would require benefits for part-time workers. “Workers who have worked for their employer for at least 12 months will have access to Family Medical Leave Act leave and protection, regardless of whether they are part time or full time. Workers who work at least 500 hours for two consecutive years will also have access to employee retirement plans.”

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