Combating Unstable Schedules for Low-wage Workers in Oregon

Research Report

Combating Unstable Schedules for Low-wage Workers in Oregon

Abstract

Overview

The advent of just-in-time scheduling technology and practices in the mid-1990s has led to increased schedule instability, resulting in a growing movement to address the need for predictable, stable schedules for workers paid low wages. Unstable schedules have been associated with earnings instability, increased stress and fatigue, sleep irregularity, and worse mental health outcomes for workers.

In this report, P4A researchers Amelia Coffey, Eleanor Lauderback, and H. Elizabeth Peters, along with their partners at the University of Oregon’s Department of Sociology Lola Loustaunau, Larissa Petrucci, Ellen Scott, and Lina Stepick, examine Oregon’s implementation of the first statewide predictive scheduling law in the nation, S.B. 828, in its first year.

Findings

The research team collected qualitative data from interviews with workers and managers to better understand how the law was implemented and experienced by employers and workers. These views were supplemented by interviews with stakeholders such as union representatives and business groups. Major findings include the following:

  • While some employer representatives contended that S.B. 828 limited their ability to accommodate unpredictable staffing needs, a few respondents also noted that the scheduling law and rulemaking around it included more employer input than other recent labor laws in Oregon, making it relatively easier to implement.
  • Workers reported that some components of the law were being widely implemented—the right to rest between shifts, advance notice of schedules, and the right to provide input on work schedules—but reported that good faith estimates of work schedules are not always provided at the time of hire, as required by the law, and hours often changed quickly after hire.
  • Despite more consistent advance notice of schedules, workers and managers indicated that last-minute schedule changes are still common and that workers are not receiving “predictability pay” for changes made without advance notice.
  • Stakeholder interviews indicated that voluntary standby list, which allowed workers to volunteer for additional hours and exempted employers from having to pay predictability pay to workers on that list, is the primary way employers have been able to avoid an important protection for workers.
  • Many workers reported being unable to get enough hours. Several workers said they signed the voluntary standby list and waived their rights to predictability pay because they saw that as the only way to get more hours.
  • Knowledge of the law was often limited among workers and some managers, which can compromise efficacy.
  • Responses suggest that complaint-driven enforcement and resource limitations may hinder the effectiveness of enforcement.

Implications for Policy and Practice

Overall, S.B. 828 has resulted in some improvements to working conditions; however, schedule instability continues to be widespread. The findings suggest several strategies that may help address the problem of continued schedule instability: (a) educating workers about their rights regarding signing the standby list and “volunteering” to change hours at the last minute; (b) limiting the ability of employers to avoid predictability pay; and (c) addressing the problem of workers being offered fewer hours than they want or need.

The research team also concluded that workers’ experiences with unpredictable scheduling could be greatly improved by comprehensive legislation offering workers guaranteed minimum hours, guaranteed predictability pay, and investment in educating workers about their legal rights.

Research Area: 

Cross-Center Initiative

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