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What you need to know for 11/19/2017

Editorial: Scheduling regulations go too far

Editorial: Scheduling regulations go too far

More demands on business aren't what this state needs right now
Editorial: Scheduling regulations go too far
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced yet more regulation that will hurt New York’s struggling businesses.
Photographer: Caitlin Ochs/The New York Times

What do you do when your state once again has finished next-to-last as the worst in the country for companies to compete in business?

If you’re New York, you take steps to make sure that next year, you finish dead last.

With the higher minimum wage, the new paid family leave requirements, healthcare costs — coupled with the state’s already onerous tax structure, labyrinth of regulations and high overall taxes that discourage consumers from spending money — Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced yet more regulation that will hurt New York’s struggling businesses.

The governor on Friday introduced rules requiring businesses to prepare worker schedules at least two weeks in advance. They also would require businesses  to pay workers for two unworked hours if they are called in and pay them for four unworked hours after last-minute shift cancellations and when workers are on-call to come into work.

The regulations don’t apply to a new worker’s first two weeks or to workers who swap shifts.

On the surface, the regulations seem reasonable.

People need to be able to schedule their lives, and there are businesses that take advantage of their employees by essentially requiring they be “on-call” for any shift at a moment’s notice.

There are also many businesses with steady, predictable workloads that have no problem scheduling workers two weeks in advance.

But that’s not the case for many other industries, including the medical industry and the lodging industry.

In response to the new regulations in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle newspaper website, the general manager of the local Holiday Inn Express said his scheduling is often determined by sudden changes in occupancy.

One day, he wrote, he might not need a full contingent of workers. But if the hotel suddenly books more rooms than anticipated, he’ll have to call in more housekeepers and front desk help at the last minute.

Under the new regulations, the business is then put in the position of having to either pay the penalties for bringing in workers at the last minute or turning away business.

The regulations also could have an unanticipated negative effect on workers.

That’s because businesses unwilling or unable to pay the penalty may elect not to bring in extra workers, depriving those workers of income and forcing the regularly scheduled workers to handle the extra workload by themselves.

In testimony before the state Labor Department earlier this year, a representative from the Business Council of New York State pointed to a number of businesses that could be harmed by this regulation, particularly those that must respond quickly to unanticipated events such as weather-related incidents and mass casualties.

That would include businesses like utility companies, snow removal companies and healthcare providers.

The regulations also would negatively affect those companies that rely on the unpredictable nature of multiple contractors and unanticipated boosts in business, such as the building trades. 

The Business Council also worried about the disproportionate impact this regulation could have on small retailers compared to large-chain retailers, which have more workers and can therefore be more flexible in their scheduling.

Competition could be one solution to this problem. Workers who can’t work inflexible schedules can choose to work elsewhere. This is particularly true during retail holiday seasons and with restaurants, bars and tourist businesses.

For those workers who don’t have such options, some kind of protection is needed to ensure that employers don’t exploit workers.

The state might be able to pass legislation to prevent companies from punishing workers who are unable to work at a moment’s notice and to require that employers spell out the employment rules prior to hiring so that new workers aren’t caught unaware. The Business Council supports that kind of approach.

There’s still time for businesses and workers to convince the state that this one-size-fits-all approach to scheduling will in many cases do more harm than good and will further contribute to New York’s uncompetitive business environment. 

Comments will be accepted 45 days after Nov. 22. Email the state Labor Department at hearing@labor.ny.gov to share your views.

New York’s business climate is tough enough. More unwieldy state regulations are not the answer.

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