By Lía Fiol-Matta, Esq., Ty Hyderally, Esq.
On January 27, 2020, New Jersey Senators Loretta Weinberg and Nia H. Gill introduced Senate Bill 921 (“New Jersey Fair Workweek Act”), which seeks to resolve the unpredictability of work schedules. The Bill was introduced in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake. This legislative proposal will dramatically impact certain larger employers’ ability to make changes to employees’ work schedules and would apply to nonexempt employees working for a mercantile, hospitality, restaurant or warehouse New Jersey employer, which employs at least 250 employees worldwide.
Workers in low-wage hourly jobs in the warehouse, retail, hospitality, and fast-food industries face unpredictable work hours and fluctuating weekly income that hinder workers from earning wages on an expected and consistent basis in order to provide for their families. Work schedule uncertainty negatively impacts workers’ ability to balance work and family responsibilities, to combine work with schooling or other activities, and to achieve a desirable work-life balance.
Among the bill’s provisions are:
- Upon hire, an employee will provide an employer with a written request of the employee’s preferred schedule, including the number of weekly work hours and the days and times the employee is available to work. This statement may be modified in writing by the employee at any time.
- The employer must provide a good-faith estimate of the employee’s projected schedule, containing: the average number of work hours the employee can expect to work each week; the minimum and maximum number of hours the employee can expect to work each week; the minimum length of shifts that the employee can expect to work; and the number of days, the amount of time, and the number of shifts that the employee can expect to work, as well as the days of the week and shifts the employee will not be scheduled to work.
- An employee will have the right to make work schedule requests, such as: to not be scheduled certain days and times, requests for more or fewer work hours and/or requests to work or not work at certain locations. The employer is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee and work in good faith to accommodate these requests if possible.
- An employer must provide and post notice of an employee’s schedule at least 14 days before the start of the work period that includes the schedule. The employer is required to give prior notice to affected employees of any changes in the posted schedule and post the revised schedule within 24 hours. An employee is allowed to decline to work any shifts that are not posted in such a manner. Employees will receive “predictability pay” (in amounts described in the bill) for any work schedule change that occurs after the above-referenced advanced notice has been given.
- An employee may decline shifts scheduled less than 12 hours after the end of the employee’s most recent shift. If an employee works a shift within 12 hours of their most recent shift, the employee shall be compensated with “rest shortfall pay” at one and one-half times the employee’s normal rate.
- Before hiring new employees, an employer must offer existing employees opportunities to work the desired number of weekly work hours they stated in their desired schedule, including increasing the shifts of existing employees within the limits of the law.
- The law would not apply to collective bargaining agreements that waive specific provisions that are covered within the law and address the topic of employee scheduling.
The above provisions, and others in the bill, may be modified for bona fide business reasons of the employer only after the employer has made every effort to schedule the employee according to the employee’s written schedule preferences. Employers covered by the law must keep records detailing compliance with the above requirements and such records must be accessible to the applicable employees. Employers must also post a notice with the relevant provisions of the law.
With the Fair Work Week Act, which we hope will pass and become law, New Jersey continues strengthening its labor laws for the benefit of our workers and families!
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