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Business groups blast bill regulating employee schedule changes

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As it's currently proposed, the “New Jersey Schedules That Work Act” would mandate that employers with 15 or more workers consider requests for a number of changes in the terms and conditions of one's employment and, in some cases, require the employer to honor them.

The bill particularly concerns changes regarding an employee’s work location, number of hours worked and the amount of notice given ahead of a work assignment.

Business groups have already come out in opposition of the measure, which was advanced Monday by the Assembly Women and Children Committee. It is being sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt (D-Voorhees) and Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) in the Assembly and by state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) in the Senate.

“This legislation fails to take into account that many scheduling changes are beyond an employer’s ability to predict or control,” said Mike Wallace, the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s director of employment, labor policy and federal affairs.  “A restaurant can’t predict that a large group reservation is going to be canceled at the last minute, and a retailer can’t be certain that store traffic will be down on a given day.”

Though employers would have the right to either grant or deny a schedule change request, they would still be required to consider it as part of a “timely, good faith interactive process” that includes a discussion with the worker.

“This is about fairness in the workplace for those working in certain occupations,” said Lampitt. “Every employee, regardless of what they do, should be able to adjust their schedule without fear of reprisal by an employer.”

But unless a legitimate business reason can be identified, employers must, however, grant requests to employees seeking a schedule change due to a serious health condition or because a worker has caregiver responsibilities or enrolls in a career-related educational training program. Requests made by part-time workers seeking a schedule change due to a second job must also be granted.

Employers failing to do so could face penalties under the bill.

“In addition, the legislation would expose employers to additional liability by explicitly allowing workers who are denied scheduling changes to sue their employers. … Adding more mandates will only drive up the cost of doing business in New Jersey and those added expenses are going to be borne by small businesses and consumers in the form of higher costs for products and services,” Wallace added.

New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Michael Egenton said that not only does the bill present yet another government mandate on employers, something the business community inherently cannot support, but it comes at a time when other labor issues and mandates such as paid sick leave, the state’s pension crisis and another proposed minimum wage increase are still up in the air.

Egenton said it’s just another example of the state attempting to regulate how private employers conduct business.

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