- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is pushing a bill aimed at making the lives of workers more predictable by discouraging companies from waiting until the last minute to announce changes in employee schedules.

The Democrat met with workers Monday in Boston to discuss the legislation, which she refiled last week.

She said the bill addresses what she called unpredictable scheduling practices like placing workers “on-call” with no guarantee of work hours, scheduling them for “split shifts” of nonconsecutive hours, sending workers home early without pay when demand is low, and punishing workers who request schedule changes.

“This is about basic fairness. This is about a single mom knowing whether or not she’s going to have work before she arranges for child care and drives halfway across town,” she said. “This is about someone who’s asked to be on call for hours on end with no promise that there will actually be any work.”

Warren said the scheduling practices create chaos for workers, making it harder for them to manage their lives and money.

Companies say the bill would add more layers of government regulation and paperwork that will end up driving up costs.

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said his group strongly opposes the bill. He said businesses need the flexibility to manage worker schedules.

“This is about trying to put into law what the unions haven’t been able to get through at the bargaining table,” he said.

Hurst said if the bill had been law during the unprecedented snows of February, countless small employers would have been forced to go out of business.

The bill would give workers at businesses with more than 15 employees the right to request changes to their schedules without fear of retaliation.

If the request was made due to a health condition, child or elder care, a second job, continued education or job training, the employers would be required to comply with the request unless they can point to a legitimate business reason not to.

The bill would also mandate that workers in food service, retail and cleaning occupations get their schedules two weeks in advance.

It would also require that workers receive additional pay when they are put on call without a guarantee that work will be available, report to work only to be sent home early, are scheduled for a split shift, or receive changes to their schedule with less than 24 hours notice.

Darius Cephas, a fast food worker who lives in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, said his schedules became so erratic that he lost his apartment and has been forced to bounce around in the homes of friends.

Cephas, 24, also said preference has been given to newer workers over older workers, even though older workers are often contacted at the last minute to fill in a shift.

“It’s ridiculous,” he said.

Warren said the bill garnered the backing of six co-sponsors when it was first filed last year. She said the refiled bill has 18 co-sponsors in the Senate and 60 in the House.

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