Councilmember Vincent Orange today introduced legislation to the D.C. Council that would require certain chain retailers and restaurants to provide their employees with work schedules three weeks in advance of those employees’ shifts.

The “Hours and Scheduling Stability Act”—endorsed by labor advocates including United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 and DC Jobs with Justice—would also require these employers to compensate employees whose shifts have been changed thereafter. The employee would receive one hour of pay after the change and four hours of pay if the change happens within 24 hours of a scheduled shift.

The bill is designed to prevent “just-in-time” scheduling and “on-call” practices, Orange said at the Council’s legislative session, which often reduce employees’ ability to plan ahead.

“One of the biggest issues [some workers] face is too little predictability in their work schedules,” Orange said. “Having a schedule you can count on leads to a better work environment and better harmony in scheduling family obligations.” Members of the audience at the Wilson Building cheered after the introduction.

According to a press release issued by UFCW Local 400, the legislation applies only to “chain retail employers with at least five establishments nationwide, and chain fast-food and full-service restaurants with at least 20 establishments nationwide.” It requires those employers to offer available hours to qualified current employees before hiring new ones; it also bans “pay, leave, and promotion” discrimination against hourly or part-time employees, per the UFCW release.

The Department of Employment Services would be responsible for enforcing the bill’s provisions, says Ari Schwartz, a lead organizer for DCJWJ. The legislation mirrors similar policies that have been proposed or enacted across the U.S. in addition to private companies’ own practices.

A woman named Kim who works part-time at a retail store downtown (and asked to be identified by her first name only) said she supports the bill because it would allow her to achieve a better balance between work and family. Kim sees her high school-aged daughter when she can, she said, sometimes at the store after school ends.

“There’s no balance,” Kim explained. “People who have young kids, especially more than one, I can’t imagine how hard that is [to find time to balance one’s job and parenting]. There’s a lot of strain and stress on many families in this city.”

Kim also said her hours were cut earlier this year. Because she doesn’t have regular hours, Kim said she hasn’t felt comfortable looking for a new job and setting up appointments with potential employers—not to mention other obligations.

The managers at the store give hours to workers when it’s convenient for the company, she added. “I’ve been doing retail since I’m 18,” said Kim, a D.C. native. “It’s not a job for me—it’s a career. You put that time into any establishment, you deserve, going into your golden years, not to be stressed about when you’re going to work [without a reasonable amount of notice].”

A survey conducted by DCJWJ this year found that the majority of people who work in retail and food service receive their schedules less than one week ahead of their shifts. A poll based on the results of that survey reported that more than 80 percent of respondents supported standards for stable hours and work schedules, even after being primed by arguments against proposals like those in Orange’s bill: for example, allowing competitive companies the flexibility to adjust shifts to meet customer traffic, and that the “government shouldn’t interfere with how companies make schedules for their workers.”

Councilmembers Brandon Todd, David Grosso, Charles Allen, and LaRuby May co-sponsored the bill after it was introduced by Orange as well as Mary ChehBrianne Nadeau, and Elissa Silverman.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery