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A bill would require certain employers to give two weeks notice for work schedules

SALEM — Employers are asking for significant revisions to a bill that would mandate two weeks' notice for changes to employee schedules and penalty pay for changes without the required notice, a burden that one local restaurant owner said would be tough for business owners and teenage employees' ever-changing schedules.

The requirements would apply only to retail, hospitality and food services establishments with 100 or more employees in the United States and 25 or more in Oregon.PMG FILE -  Employers are asking for significant revisions to a bill that would mandate two weeks' notice for changes to employee schedules and penalty pay for changes without the required notice, a burden that one local restaurant owner said would be tough for business owners and teenage employees' ever-changing schedules.
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If passed, the so-called "predictive scheduling" legislation would be the first statewide law of its kind in the nation. Only local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco and Seattle, have passed comparable policies. Similar legislation stalled in the Legislature in 2015 in Oregon.

A public hearing on the new bill in the Senate Workforce Committee went forward Feb. 27 despite several amendments in the works, said the committee's chairwoman, Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland).

Some of the amendments give exemptions for weather-related schedule changes, Taylor said.

Employers have described the proposed regulations as "onerous."

Betsy Earls, a lobbyist representing Associated Oregon Industries, the Oregon Retail Council and the Oregon Business Council, said the bill curtails employers' ability to manage store operations and gives "too many hard lines that employers have to follow."

While the legislation gives exemptions for certain circumstances, it fails to account for the many different scenarios employers encounter, business owners said.

While Tom Vondrachek, owner of Jem 100, 208 N. Main St., understood the need people like single or recent parents have for a stable schedule, he doubted that his staff of largely teenagers could hold to schedules going two weeks in advance as they balance extra-curricular activities at school.

He also pointed out the burden of potentially having a penalty for each time an employee is called in to fill for a sick co-worker or when a snowstorm closes down the shop, which he said would be particularly hard on new businesses.

"For a small business owner, it's just another challenge," Vondrachek said. "We're really well established and we're going to be able to understand and adjust to these situations, but for a new guy, it's going to be difficult."

Shawn Miller of the Northwest Grocery Association said the bill would punish employers and employees by removing flexibility from scheduling and put businesses at a competitive disadvantage with companies in other states. The association compiled a chart comparing the legislation to the Seattle ordinance and noted that the Oregon bill is more burdensome.

For instance, Miller requested that lawmakers give an exemption for collective bargaining agreements, as the city of Seattle did in its ordinance.

Not all employers oppose the bill. Representatives from the Main Street Alliance of about 3,500 small business owners spoke in support of the proposed regulations.

Sen. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland) sponsored this year's legislation after convening a work group on predictive scheduling last year.

Several members from the business community boycotted the work group meetings because they said they felt attempts to regulate and tax businesses in Oregon have become increasingly overreaching and anti-business. At the time, they pointed to Ballot Measure 97, which sought to tax certain large corporations on sales. Voters defeated the measure overwhelmingly in November.

Surveys, however, show that employers often schedule employees with less than 24 hours' notice, said Mary King, a labor economist and professor at Portland State University. King and two researchers from the University of Oregon recently completed a report on their research. With such short notice, some employees cannot find child care, make doctor's appointments, work second jobs or attend school, she said.

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