Legislation to Remedy Scheduling Abuses Proposed to Congress

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) stood before Congress at the end of July to introduce the Schedules that Work Act (STWA), a bill to help hourly wage earners better balance their lives.

This legislation is intended to remedy scheduling abuses. It would do that by holding companies more accountable for workers’ time and by ensuring employees’ safety and consideration when they request particular hours.

Abuses called “just in time” scheduling include late-notice of work hours, sending workers home early when business is slow and calling workers off work entirely just hours before the start of a shift

Employees who are trying to balance work and family life have a difficult and stressful time finding childcare when their schedules are unpredictable.  Not only that, but these workers are losing wages for hours they had reserved for work. 

This bill has been in the making for years as “just in time” scheduling practices plague the retail, service, and cleaning industries.  These industries primarily employ female, hourly workers who are not unionized and struggle to get fair treatment in the workplace. 

The STWA would improve the lives of workers in multiple ways that also would benefit the employer in the end.


First, the STWA encourages employee loyalty while decreasing employee stress.  With the guarantees granted by the STWA, the employer cannot take the worker’s time for granted, and workers appreciate being respected for the time they commit to their jobs, reducing job turnover and dissatisfaction.

Secondly, the STWA requires the employer to compensate workers for scheduling abuses when they cannot be avoided.  With the STWA, an employee must be paid for an extra hour when he or she works a split shift to compensate for the wait time in-between those shifts. An employer is also required to provide “call in pay,” of at least one hour if the employee is on call but doesn’t work for at least four hours.

Additionally, the STWA mandates that an employee be paid for four hours of work if he or she reports for a scheduled shift that is at least 4 hours long and their shift is called off or cut short without 24-hour notice.

Lastly, unless employers have legitimate business reasons, they are required by the STWA to grant workers’ scheduling requests for “priority reasons.”  These include medical reasons, child or elder care, a second job or continued education or job training.  Workers are also protected from being fired or punished for requesting fewer or more hours or more regular hours.

The Economic Policy Institute published a report in April of 2015 regarding irregular work scheduling and the negative consequences it inflicts on families’ incomes, lives and relationships.  The report reveals that 17 percent of the entire American workforce faces unstable scheduling, which is associated with higher work-family conflict and work stress. 

The STWA would help workers by giving them more control over their schedules so that they can plan their lives and, consequentially, be better employees.  


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