Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a bill last week that aims to protect hourly workers from scheduling abuses and allow for greater flexibility and certainty around their work schedules.

The Schedules that Work Act (HR 5159) will protect employees from retaliation if they request a more flexible or stable schedule, require that retail, food service and cleaning employees receive their work schedules at least two weeks in advance, and create a process for employers to consider special scheduling requests of employees. It will also ensure that workers are compensated for at least four hours of work if they show up to work when scheduled for four hours but are sent home early, and provide them with an extra hour of pay if they are scheduled to work non-consecutive shifts in one day.

“Low-wage workers in America are too often being jerked around,” said Rep. DeLauro, Co-Chair of the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. “These women – and they are usually women – cannot plan ahead, or make arrangements to see that their kids and family are being taken care of. This bill would protect low-wage workers from abuse and help ensure they can look after their families. Congress needs to ensure that people putting in a hard day’s work get a fair day’s pay and the ability to care for their loved ones.”

An improvement in scheduling practices would largely benefit women workers, who account for almost three-fourths of federally funded, low-wage workers, and people of color, who are over-represented in this workforce. According to a study released by Demos last month, 1.3 million women working in the retail industry live in or near poverty. Low-wages, unpredictable hours and lack of full-time opportunities present real obstacles to these workers’ economic security.

Companion legislation to HR 5159 is being sponsored in the Senate by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Media Resources: US House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce 7/22/14; Feminist Newswire 6/6/14; Demos 6/2/14; Think Progress 6/21/13

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